Western names Humanitarian Award winners
By Paul Mayne
February 13, 2014
Established in 2011, the Western Humanitarian Award recognizes faculty, staff and students who are engaged in a range of efforts directed toward improving the quality of life for individuals and communities around the world.
Previous winners have included Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry professor David Cechetto, 2013; French Studies professor Henry Boyi and Western Heads East pioneer Bob Gough, both in 2012; as well as PhD student Maricarmen Vega, Faculty of Information and Media Studies professor Sandra Smeltzer and Ecosystem Health professor Charles Trick, all in 2011.
Professor, School of Kinesiology
For the past seven years, the School of Kinesiology (Faculty of Health Sciences) has provided a study-abroad course where Western students travel to Cuba to explore and learn from Cuba’s national sport and physical activity system.
A significant component of this study-abroad course, led by Kinesiology professor Darwin Semotiuk, is to give back to the communities that are visited, and provide Cuba with essential humanitarian aid, including donations of sports equipment, footwear, clothing, dental supplies/toiletries and educational supplies. Last year, Western students carried more than 450 kg of humanitarian aid products serving to improve multiple facets of Cuban life.
Canadians and Cubans alike recognize sport and physical activity are integral components to a long and healthy quality of life. As Kinesiology students, the class understands how valuable a priority on sport and physical activity can be.
“Through Darwin’ s dedication, our students gain important cultural perspective that will carry with them throughout their lives,” said Jim Weese, Health Sciences dean. “These experiences cannot be simulated in the classroom and inspire students to develop a commitment to making a difference in the lives of others. Our students are able to see the difference their efforts are making when they travel to Cuba.”
In winning Western’s Humanitarian Award, Semotiuk receives $2,500, which will be used to further enhance the Western’s Cuban Sport and Physical Activity study abroad class as they work to set long-term objectives for in assisting primary schools, elderly care and high-performance sport.
Four years ago, Western Medical Sciences/Biology student Joshua Zyss set up a charity in Tacloban City, Philippines, to sponsor 20 children, who spent their days digging through local dumpsites for survival, to attend school full time.
Zyss has spent a cumulative 10 months in the Philippines since he first went there five years ago as a pre-med student. It was on this scheduled one-month volunteer experience that Zyss felt the need to stay, extending his trip an additional three months to set up his dumpsite project. This project, Feeding a Future, now sponsors 30 children, with the goal of doing so until each graduates high school.
All the children are fed twice daily while they attend school, receive comprehensive medical care, and are all happy, healthy and are all maintaining their target weight. Thanks to good nutrition, sanitary conditions, ample vitamins and, of equal importance, a proper education, these children are thriving because of the dedicated work of Zyss.
“He has dedicated his personal resources, his time and energy into ensuring 20 underprivileged children, who were mostly living in dumpsites, have a chance at a reasonable life,” said Claire Mortera, Earth Sciences research assistant. “He has proven himself, over the past four years, with his ongoing charitable works in the Philippines.”
In winning Western’s Humanitarian Award, Zyss receives $5,000, which will be used to continue with the sponsorship of the current children, allowing Zyss to set aside some of his fundraising money for medical emergencies.
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