Volunteer work is often tiresome and thankless but for one Ponoka teen, recognition came in an unlikely form.
Nineteen-year-old Willow Van Wolde received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal Feb. 8 at Government House in Edmonton for her work as an anti-bullying advocate. Premier Alison Redford and Lt.-Gov. Donald Ethell presented the medal to Van Wolde and more than 20 other Albertans.
Van Wolde volunteers her time with the Government of Alberta’s bullying committee composed of 13 youth volunteers and two mentors. The youths volunteer their time raising awareness in schools and communities throughout Alberta of the effects of bullying.
At the ceremony, Ethell said he strongly believes that everyone’s voice is important, no matter where they live. Van Wolde also believes in helping and contributing to her community and bullying can stop, through ongoing determination and a belief that each person is capable of goodness.
“I got really excited actually,” Van Wolde said on hearing she would be a recipient. “When doing volunteer work you don’t expect it (praise) actually.”
She feels the Diamond Jubilee Medal is a once in a lifetime honour and this type of recognition only strengthens her resolve to continue educating youth on bullying. “I love it!”
This isn’t the first time Van Wolde has met Premier Redford, which made her less nervous once it came time to receive the medal. Members of the anti-bullying group participated in a video with the premier on resources available to students. The video is available on their website: www.b-free.ca.
Much of her volunteer time is conducted for this group and Van Wolde has given presentations to students in Trochu to further anti-bullying awareness.
The teen also works as a hairdresser at the Cutting Edge in Ponoka and feels she is able to find the right harmony being a volunteer and working. “It’s the perfect little balance.”
Her goal is to continue volunteering and raising more awareness about the social issue. The B-Free group meets every three months and takes part in initiatives between those times. They are currently discussing the feasibility of a youth forum in the province to give young people more education on how bullying can affect a person.