Thee years ago, Dr. Heidi Haensel was approached by the Violence Against Women Services Elgin County to volunteer as a board member.
The organization aims to establish a place of safety, dignity and comfort for women and children who have experienced domestic violence and assault.
As an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and a practicing psychiatrist at Victoria Hospital, Dr. Haensel is a prime volunteer for this organization. She possesses the theoretical and experiential knowledge that is valuable when dealing with the physical and mental well-being of victims.
Additionally, Dr. Haensel aids with organizing events such as the local candlelight vigil for The National Day of Remembrance and Action to End Violence Against Women. She also contributed to a campaign that aimed to raise $1 million so a new emergency shelter could be built in St. Thomas. The campaign picked up enormous community support and more than $1.1 million in community donations was collected by the organization during the last two years.
In the summer of 2015 it was announced that the province of Ontario would be contributing $1.93 million, in addition to the money raised by VAWSEC, to help build the new $3.2 million shelter to serve women and children across Elgin County.
“It has been so rewarding for me to volunteer my time for this; to help with the governance of the organization,” Dr. Haensel explained.
Through these experiences, Dr. Haensel has formed close connections with local women and volunteers, and has developed deeper ties to her community.
“The other amazing thing is teaching my three children about the value of voluntarism and community involvement, and raising their awareness of social justice issues,” she said.