Thousands of volunteers give generously of their time to support St John Ambulance across the country each and every year. But some distinguish themselves through extraordinary loyalty and achievements. Today, the Peel Dufferin Branch would like to recognize the efforts of one such example: Marc Dexter Memorial Scholarship recipient Malak Aiad. Jason Repovs of our board of directors recently sat down with her to learn about her experience with St John Ambulance.
J: It’s great to meet you Malak! So tell me, where do you go to school, and what are you studying there?
M: I’m currently in my 3rd year of undergrad studies at McMaster University, studying Health Sciences. I’m in the process of applying to med schools, as well as masters programs.
J: That’s great to hear! How long have you been volunteering with St. John Ambulance?
M: I’ve been volunteering since 2019, when I received my Medical First Responder certification.
J: So that coincides with your Grade 12 year in high school. What led you to want to get involved with St John Ambulance back then?
M: My Grade 12 biology teacher was involved with St John Ambulance, and always spoke very highly of the work they were doing there. She often related concepts from biology to MFR instruction, which she also does for SJA. I always found that fascinating, and thought it would be neat to apply some of the knowledge I gained in that biology class to real life.
At the same time, I love Mississauga, where I was born and raised, and saw volunteer with St John Ambulance as a great way to give back to my community.
J: That’s such an interesting origin story for how you came to be involved with St John Ambulance! Now tell me, how has volunteering with SJA impacted you personally?
M: Where do I start? I didn’t know much about what it meant to be a paramedic prior to joining St John Ambulance, and as a result, didn’t consider it as a potential career option. Working with SJA has opened my eyes to a whole new world of career opportunities, and broadened my horizons in ways I could never have imagined.
I’ve loved hearing from other Medical First Responders about the difference they make in their work. You meet people from all walks of life, and learn about difference experiences, opportunities, and skill sets. It made me realize that there are other next steps than just medical school after your Health Sciences undergrad.
Volunteering also taught me that your worth as a teammate isn’t based on how long you’ve been in the role; it’s about the skills and value you bring to the table. Everyone is just focused on doing good work, there’s no judgment, and as a result it’s been a great environment to build self-confidence.
J: That’s a powerful personal story. Have you found that volunteering with St John Ambulance has given you some transferable skills?
M: Definitely. Through my experience volunteering, I’ve been able to develop teamwork skills, humility, curiosity, and a willingness to try new things, to fail and learn from it.
I’d also say that I’ve been able to build my leadership skills, as well. I had the chance to get involved with Immigration, Refugeed & Citizenship Canada down in Niagara, where I volunteered for some time.
J: It’s so wonderful to hear that St John Ambulance has been able to play a part in helping you develop those skills. As you think about those who might be looking to follow in your footsteps, do you have any advice to offer other youth who might be thinking about volunteering their time?
Just go for it. Don’t worry about whether you’ll be amazing right away – you’ll learn as you go, and you will deliver more value than you ever thought possible. If you don’t believe in yourself right away, surround yourself with others who do.
If you’re on the fence, just get involved. You don’t have to spend a ton of time, but it can pay off and open doors that you didn’t even know existed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes, either; nobody is perfect!
J: That’s good life advice in general, never mind just for youth. Now before we leave off, is there anything else you’d like to talk to me about?
M: I want to take a moment to talk about diversity and inclusion. I feel comfortable and proud to show up as my full, authentic self when I volunteer. With SJA, everyone is so inclusive and focused on delivering to the community. As a Muslim woman that wears the Hijab, nobody bats an eye, which is exactly how it should be.
J: I can appreciate that. That you can dress how you like without fear of judgment should be a given, but as a society we still have a lot of work to do, and we’re not there yet; I’m grateful that, together, we create that sort of safe environment within St John Ambulance. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me Malak, and best of luck in your post-undergrad applications!