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New grad shares how volunteering brought clarity for her future career path

Kristy Inouye found herself getting swept up in her quest for achievement during her first year as a biology student at the University of Victoria.  A self-professed perfectionist, Kristy was meeting the lofty academic standards she set for herself, but she was also feeling that something was missing from her life.

“My self-worth was tied up with my grades and I decided that it was important to get involved in something that would focus my energy outward,” said Kristy. In the fall of her second year at UVic, Kristy reached out to Volunteer Victoria, and was directed to Island Health’s Volunteer Resources team. They connected her with Glengarry Hospital’s Bingo Buddy Program where she helped residents with various impairments participate in a weekly Bingo game. 

“It was a great way to start off as a first-time volunteer in a residential care environment,” said Kristy. “I was a bit nervous at first,” she recalled. “I’d worked with children as a gymnastics instructor, but never with older adults. Fortunately, this program placed me with wonderful staff and volunteers at Glengarry and I was able to learn from them and meet a variety of residents in a relaxed, group activity.”

After her first year at Glengarry, Kristy began to appreciate the benefits of volunteerism. She could see how it enhanced the lives of residents by adding companionship and new people to their regular routines. “Being around the residents also enhanced my life,” said Kristy. “I gained more confidence in my ability to talk to people outside my social circles, and it helped me learn that there was more to life, and more to me, than academics.” 

As her school schedule evolved, Kristy’s volunteer manager and Glengarry staff provided her with the flexibility, support and encouragement to continue working with residents; this time as a “Pretty Nails” volunteer. Through safety videos, and mentorship with a licensed aesthetician, she learned how to work closely with residents one-on-one and get to know them better on a more personal level.

Bryony Moorman, Island Health’s manager of volunteer resources for south island residential sites says Kristy provided hundreds of manicures and visits to residents. “She also recruited other volunteers to Glengarry, sharing her positive experience with peers who benefitted from her mentorship,” said Moorman. “She has been an amazing volunteer and built trusting relationships with residents and staff over the years. It was wonderful to see how volunteering helped her grow, take on new challenges and find direction for her future career path.”

“I discovered I wasn’t nearly as shy as I’d always thought I was,” said Kristy. I loved the personal connections I made while spending time individually with residents, listening to and talking with them. Before volunteering, I’d convinced myself that my shyness would restrict me to a career working more behind-the-scenes, with less interaction. I started to think, ‘Maybe I can do this!’”

In addition to helping her learn about herself, Kristy says volunteering helped shift her understanding of aging. “It was humbling to hear staff say that residents remembered me and looked forward to my weekly visits. While the services volunteers provide are appreciated, just spending time with someone can go a long way towards easing the loneliness that people can experience when they move away from loved ones and neighbours.”

During her third year at Glengarry, Kristy realized she had the self-confidence, interpersonal skills and the calling to work directly to support older adults and people with disabilities. Switching gears from Biology, she completed her Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology at UVic, graduating at the top of her class.

Just before her convocation ceremony, Kristy received a call from the Dean of Education to say that she had won the Governor General’s Silver Medal, the most prestigious award that students in Canadian schools can receive, for achieving the highest academic standing of all UVic undergraduate students.

Celebrating with Kristy on the day of her UVic convocation are proud parents Chris and Rob and Kristy’s brother Mark.

“It was an honour to win the award,” recalled Kristy. “It wasn’t something I set out to achieve, but it was a wonderful surprise. This achievement would not have been possible without the unwavering support from my parents, family, friends, peers, professors and the staff at Glengarry throughout my undergraduate studies. It also validated that I had chosen the right field,” noted Kristy. She begins her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of British Columbia this fall.

On behalf of Island Health, we congratulate Kristy on this well-deserved award and are grateful for the four years of kind companionship and professionalism shared with residents and staff at Glengarry Hospital. “We wish Kristy the very best and know her future clients will benefit from someone who appreciates the importance of getting to know them as individuals, involving and engaging people in their health and wellness,” notes Moorman.

To discover new strengths in yourself, and help strengthen your community, volunteer with Island Health