Dignitas Youth Western recently held their annual Race for Dignity on campus. As as result of their efforts for the year, the group will be donating a grand total of $1,900 to support our medical and research programs, marking the most funds raised since becoming an official Western U club three years ago! Earlier this month, several members of the club’s executive visited our Headquarters in Toronto to learn more about how they could support our global health efforts. To say that their energy and enthusiasm left an indelible mark on the staff would be an understatement. We sat down with a few of the students to find out what makes this dynamic group tick.
Q: How did you first become involved with Dignitas?
A: In 2012, in our first year, Navina and I learned about Dignitas Youth through a friend at McGill and we wanted to start a club at Western. We went through the ratification process with our school and recruited various students to be part of our executive team. The following year we became a club, started recruiting directors and have grown ever since. – Nithiyaa Pushpanathan, Chief Returning Officer
Q: What do you see as your mission as a Dignitas Youth chapter?
A: I would say it’s about raising awareness about Dignitas’s work and of course, the fundraising aspect, which we do through our events. – Navina Pushpanathan, Chief Returning Officer
Q: Why do you care about global health?
A: I had the opportunity to visit Malawi before my involvement with Dignitas, first in high school in 2009 and again after my second year do some independent research. So I’ve really seen the needs and the differences that can be made in a grassroots community-oriented approach to health care. – Colin Mackay, VP External
Q: What do you enjoy most about being involved in Dignitas Youth Western?
A: We can see the results in this organization, which is really great. It’s also rare to have a community like this at Western, where everyone is working together towards a common goal for the greater good, as opposed to just having fun. – Emmah Pratt, VP Marketing
Q: Was there a Dignitas Youth event this year that you feel most proud of?
A: We were really excited to have Dr. Chil-Yong Kang as a speaker for one of our events. It’s really inspiring to our community to have someone from our university who is making strides in HIV vaccine research. – Emmah Pratt, VP Marketing
Q: What are some of the other events you organized this year?
A: We started the year by participating in “Clubs Week” to recruit new members; we also hosted a couple of bar nights, a World AIDS Day event and the Race for Dignity. In addition, we organized social events to build relationships and networks. We do at least one event every month. – Nithiyaa Pushpanathan, Chief Returning Officer
Q: We are now taking our first steps to an AIDS-free generation. What does it mean to you support HIV+ teen go to Teen Club or help a pregnant mother give birth to an HIV-free baby?
A: It is the most gratifying feeling. The fact that we, as university students in Ontario, can contribute to Malawi’s efforts is incredible. This is something that is bigger than ourselves; it gives us a chance to create meaningful change. – Navina Pushpanathan, Chief Returning Officer
Q: What would you say to high school students doing the Race for Dignity and perhaps graduating this year?
A: As someone who did the Race for Dignity at Appleby College and then re-engaged with the Dignitas in my second year, I would say ‘definitely take the initiative to stay involved’. And if there isn’t a club at your post-secondary institution, then take the initiative to start one and make it your own. – Emmah Pratt, VP Marketing
Thank you Dignitas Youth Western – we are so proud of your efforts and inspired by your passion. Your support is saving lives in Malawi and ensuring that people have the treatment and care they need for HIV and other diseases. We look forward to your continued involvement in our work.
To learn more about how Dignitas Youth are joining forces to raise awareness and funds to tackle global health challenges, join us this Thursday April 2, 2015 for a lunch hour webinar. Our special guests include: Yi-Min Chun – University of Toronto (moderator), Max Holzberg – Royal St. George’s College and Dignitas’s Teen Club Coordinator, Brave Nyirenda, who is visiting from Malawi. Click here. to register for the webinar.