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June 25, 2018 9:14 AM

Conestoga student uses skills to support Zambian orphanage

In July, Conestoga student Ashley Tomic will depart for the Lifesong Harmony School in Zambia -- home to nearly 500 students -- where she will volunteer her time. During the summer, Tomic will work as a photographer for the school, assist teachers in the classroom and provide individual tutoring.

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Conestoga student Ashley Tomic (back, centre) will spend the summer using her skills to benefit others on her second trip to Zambia, volunteering at the Lifesong Harmony School.

The trip will mark Tomic’s second trip to Zambia; she started volunteering at the school last year.

“I knew I wanted to volunteer somewhere for a few months in the summer, and it just so happened that while I was seeking out opportunities the missionary family that runs the school visited my church,” explained Tomic. “We talked and it quickly became apparent that my skill set was a good match for their needs -- before I knew it I was on a plane to Africa. I am returning to Zambia because last summer I fell in love with the country, the culture, and the people, and I couldn’t bear the thought of not going back. Right along with that, I want my skills to be used to benefit other people and, because there are still needs that I can meet, it seemed natural to return and keep helping.”

The majority of the students at the school are orphans and many have been affected by the HIV virus, whether through transmission to them through birth or by the loss of their parents who passed away from an HIV-related illness.

Tomic completed Conestoga’s one-year Human Services Foundation certificate program during the 2017-18 academic year and will return to the college in September to start the Social Service Worker two-year diploma program. During her first year at the college, Tomic received the Transchem Community contribution award which recognizes students and mentors who have given back to their community and made positive contributions to an individual or group through their program. In addition to her work in Africa, she volunteers locally.

“One of the main reasons I chose to pursue social work is because of my volunteer experiences—each mission/organization I have been a part of revealed to me that I want to learn how to help people better so I can be more effective,” said Tomic. “I know that when my courses are challenging and life gets overwhelming, the people I have met and the experiences I have had will inspire me to keep going and achieve my goal of becoming a social worker. One of the main lessons I have learned through volunteering is to appreciate people and places that are different than me … the more people I am able to help and develop relationships with the more I see how much we all have in common, which has torn down walls of judgment and bias in my life and enriched my character.”

Students in Conestoga’s Social Service Worker diploma program gain knowledge to enhance relationships and develop skills to work with all segments of the population, individuals, families and community. The program places emphasis on enhancing self-awareness, emotional maturity and respect for diversity and inclusion. Skills in counselling, group work, and community development are developed through role-playing, simulations and meaningful field experiences

For more information, visit the program page.

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