Volunteerism Award Winners
This award recognizes those who give of their time and talents to create, expand or grow programs to benefit their community or society as a whole.
Loran Morrison, BSc’11, BSc’14
Most people cannot wait for the weekend to get here, but Loran Morrison always looks forward to Wednesday afternoons.
Each week throughout the school year, you can find this third-year Dalhousie Medical School student at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library welcoming students and tutors alike to SHINE Academics, a volunteer-run free tutoring program that Morrison co-founded in 2013. Focused on science and math, the program has had a significant impact on everyone who has participated in it, from the students who are succeeding in school, the volunteers who make it happen, and Morrison herself.
“When you volunteer in your community, you’re doing something that adds energy, excitement and meaning to your life,” Morrison explains. “That’s what SHINE has done for me. To see students who were certain they couldn’t do math now entering their second year of university is just incredible.”
Committed to community
Most people who know Morrison would likely describe her as incredible, particularly her ability to give back to the community despite the demands of her studies, work and three dogs. In addition to running SHINE, Morrison played a key role in launching Sistema NS, a music tutoring program for youth, and she spent three months in Mae Sot, Thailand, providing education and health care services to Burmese refugees. That devotion has long inspired friends and family to make a difference in their own way, and it is now being recognized with the 2017 Dalhousie Alumni Association Volunteerism Award.
SHINE co-founder Chloe Zinck (BSc’16) says such recognition is well-deserved. “Loran is a revolutionary thinker, a visionary leader, and nothing short of an inspiration to everyone who has the pleasure of meeting her. “She carries this passion with her in everything she does and I have no doubt that she will continue to change the world.”
Morrison and SHINE have certainly helped to change the lives of students who have participated in the program, with many going on to post-secondary education in a variety of fields that once seemed beyond reach. But Josh Creighton, who graduated from the program in 2015, says the impact of SHINE goes far beyond improving grades.
“SHINE acts as a platform for people to become leaders in our community,” says Creighton, who is studying at Dalhousie. “I would never have guessed how much Loran and SHINE would change my outlook on education, or life, and I hope she realizes how much we, the community, appreciate her for all she’s done.”
Success and support
Originally from Truro, Morrison says the inspiration for SHINE came to her after she began studying physics at Dalhousie University in 2006. Looking for a sense of connection in her newly adopted community, she saw a poster at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library promoting a literacy tutoring program and asked staff if there was an opportunity to help students struggling with science and math.
“I was introduced to a student who was pregnant and trying to get through grade 11 before her baby was due,” Morrison recalls. “The next year, she had a cousin who needed help. Eventually, I went from having one student to ten a week and tutoring each for an hour. I realized I needed help, and that’s how SHINE was born.”
The program has grown significantly and quickly from its humble beginnings, thanks mainly to word of mouth. As of 2017, there were 55 students participating, and Morrison says it would not be possible to help them achieve their dreams without the support of volunteers. She is also grateful to Gordon Stirrett Wealth Management, which provides funding for equipment and snacks, and to her Dalhousie School of Medicine colleagues who have served as tutors and raised money for SHINE through the annual Euphoria talent show.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be there for someone, but it is also wonderful to know there are people who are there for you,” Morrison says. “For me, that is the essence of community. It’s a team where everybody’s able to provide for everybody, and that’s what our volunteers and institutions like Dalhousie have done for me, because I couldn’t do what I do without them.”
A SHINE-ing light
For that reason, Morrison says receiving a Dalhousie Alumni Association Award is an honour. “It’s amazing to feel such love and appreciation from your colleagues and to know that they think the work you’re doing is great. It’s not the reason I volunteer, but to be recognized by the Dalhousie community is an incredibly humbling moment in my life.”
Morrison is not quite sure what the future holds for SHINE, except to say that she will remain involved even as she progresses toward a career in medicine. “SHINE has always evolved in an organic way,” Morrison says. “I don’t know what direction it will move in, I only know it will continue to grow and I am absolutely going along for the ride. It is the light of my life.”
Glenn Dodge, BComm’91, LLB’94
From Canada to Cameroon, Glenn Dodge has devoted himself to making a difference in the lives of others whenever and wherever he can.
“When you give back, there’s a sense that you’re helping people in difficult situations feel like human beings again,” says the 2016 Dalhousie Alumni Association Volunteerism Award honouree.
“Just showing you care does so much in terms of restoring a level of self-esteem in their lives. That’s the most rewarding aspect of volunteering for me.”
Drawing inspiration from Dalhousie classmates
As Dodge’s Class of ’94 colleagues will tell you, giving back has been his passion since the days when he was organizing Dalhousie Law School toy drives for Bryony House. “Volunteering for Glenn was his work,” says John Le Blanc, Scotiabank senior legal counsel. “Those of us who knew him never made the distinction. He was always doing things for others.”
But Dodge will tell you it was the example set by his classmates, and the Dalhousie Law School environment, that really inspired him to make the world a better place.
“For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by passionate, intelligent individuals very engaged in debating the issues of the day. It really opened my eyes to what was going on in the world. The work that classmates were doing through Dalhousie Legal Aid Service also got me thinking about what I could do to help others as well.”
Dodge found the answer, in part, by travelling the world, which opened his eyes to challenges that people were facing in other countries. Realizing his legal and subsequent project management training could be of benefit in addressing these challenges, he left the corporate world in 2007 for full-time overseas volunteer assignments.
An international impact
Over the next eight years, he worked mainly with the Voluntary Service Overseas organization and the outcomes are impressive. He helped develop an advocacy centre for children’s rights in Nigeria with the Fantsuam Foundation. In Bangladesh, he created a Monitoring and Evaluation system for Young Power in Social Action. He assisted with coordinating the development and relief response efforts for malnutrition and seasonal flooding in Laos with the United Nations. And Dodge served as project manager with the Muslim Students Association of Bamenda (MUSAB) for an initiative to eradicate the abuse of widows in northwest Cameroon.
These experiences proved as transformative for Dodge as they were for the people and organizations he served, in particular the Cameroon initiative.
“This was the first opportunity I had to work directly with beneficiaries,” says Dodge. “For generations, widows there have been shunned in their communities and subjected to the most horrible treatment you can imagine. To go out into the field, raise awareness about the impacts of this abuse and see how these efforts changed attitudes and improved prospects for these widows was particularly gratifying for me.”
Since returning to Canada in 2015, Dodge has continued his career of advocacy and community involvement as BC Program Director for the Justice Education Society of BC, an organization dedicated to enhancing access to the province’s justice system.
“It’s the ideal position for me because it combines my backgrounds in law and community involvement,” says Dodge.
“We work with youth, immigrants and Indigenous Peoples to make the legal system more approachable. I know from my experience that, for many, particularly immigrants, the justice system is something to be feared, and not trusted. Being able to make the experience less frightening or intimidating for someone, that’s what makes me happy.”
Leaving a legacy of volunteerism
It means so much to Dodge that his classmates and fellow alumni have honoured him with the Volunteerism Award, but he says his efforts pale in comparison to the individuals he’s worked with over the years.
“There are people with these organizations, both overseas and here, who have dedicated their lives to do what they’re doing. While it’s humbling to be recognized for what I’ve done, they’ve made far greater sacrifices than I ever have.”
For Dodge, the award is a welcome opportunity to encourage others to follow his example and consider volunteering, here or internationally. That, he says, is what he would like his legacy to be.
“There is a world of wonders out there that you really have to experience first-hand in order to appreciate it, and volunteering is a great way to do that. Whether you make a big difference, or just change one life, what you give cannot begin to compare with the feeling of fulfillment you get from it.”
Dr. Ian Doyle, DDS’78
From dental missions around the world to the four-hour commute he makes each month from Sydney to teach at Dalhousie’s Dental School, Dr. Ian Doyle (DDS’78) goes to great lengths to give back.
“I look at volunteering as a way to contribute to my community, and the world, for the mutual benefits that result from helping others,” says the 2015 Dalhousie Alumni Association Volunteerism Award winner. “When I sold my practice six years ago, I soon realized I had the flexibility to do things that required more time off and more travel.”
Dr. Doyle has certainly taken advantage of that, participating in missions that are helping to establish preventative dental care for communities in Peru, Nicaragua and Guyana.
“I’ve been travelling to Amerindian communities in a remote area of the Pakaraima Mountains of Guyana since 2007. We’ve gone from relieving pain and treating infection through oral surgery and antibiotics to training local technicians who will be able to provide comprehensive dentistry using donated equipment.”
Even while home in Sydney, Dr. Doyle is constantly on the go, contributing where he can. This long-time blood donor and member of the Cape Breton Chordsmen participated in the launch of a free dental day for homeless and underserved populations. He volunteers with his church, The Rotary Club and Talbot House, a treatment facility for men with addictions. And he’s helped advance the quality of dental care as an executive member of the Nova Scotia Dental Association, the Nova Scotia Dental Board and Cape Breton Island Dental Society.
“Community involvement was constantly encouraged while I was at Dalhousie. I remember instructors and upperclassmen saying you have to get involved or dentistry will not be as fulfilling. And that’s absolutely true.”
As incoming president of the International College of Dentists in Canada, Dr. Doyle continues to set an example for young dentists and alumni alike. He wants to encourage more dentists to volunteer at home, or around the world, and he’s planning missions to Haiti and Cambodia, which could turn into family affairs.
“My son, Ian, Jr., and his wife, Kylene, are graduating physicians who plan to come to Haiti. My wife, Anne (BA’76), has been on all but one mission, while my daughter, Patricia (BSc’05, MD’09), has accompanied me to Nicaragua. I wouldn’t be the volunteer I am without the support of my family, and feel that Anne is as deserving of this award as I am.”
Dr. Colin van Zoost, MD’09
His classmates describe him as their “very own Patch Adams,” but Dr. Colin van Zoost (MD’09) is quick to share the credit with the other volunteers on his teams.
In his first year of medicine, he began serving at the Sunday Suppers at St. Andrew’s Church in Halifax — and discovered their footcare program had dwindled down into nothing but a wooden box of free shoes. People living below the poverty line have a higher risk of developing chronic diseases, and an infection in their feet makes them more vulnerable to serious complications. So Dr. van Zoost began collecting shoes and socks, helped people get a proper fit, provided basic foot care, and encouraged local retailers to donate footwear. He also teamed up with a pair of footcare nurses, sisters Marcienne and Deborah Mason and registered as a not-for-profit clinic — Walk in Our Shoes Foot Care — which now operates weekly with a small army of volunteers.
“We have six to 12 volunteers each week, and most of them are nursing or medical students from Dalhousie, along with a few healthcare professionals,” says Dr. van Zoost, an internal medicine physician. “We treat about 20 people each week, and give out 40 to 60 pairs of shoes and several hundred pairs of socks.”
Next, Dr. van Zoost turned his attention to vaccinating the homeless population. In the course of his research, he discovered many people were receiving flu vaccinations in the fall, but few were getting the pneumococcal vaccine. Dr. van Zoost contacted the North End Community Health Centre and MOSH (Mobile Outreach Street Health) and assembled a team of volunteers—later dubbed HaliVax—to help provide the vaccine on a larger scale. In their first year, they doubled the pneumococcal vaccine rates, and plan to cast their net a little broader each year.
Dr. van Zoost says he hopes to inspire future Dalhousie medical and nursing students to take on initiatives in their community.
“You can almost measure the health of a population by how well you treat the most marginalized group, so we can actually improve the health of the general population by making this group of people healthier,” he says. “When [medical professionals and students] see a homeless person, I want them to see that under the dirty clothes, there’s a person with a story.”
Eleftherios (Terry) Michalopoulos, BA’12
At 71, Eleftherios (Terry) Michalopoulos (BA’12) has figured out a few things about life. “It’s not about the getting,” he says. “It’s about giving.”
The decorated volunteer, who enrolled at Dalhousie in 2007 at the age of 65, has made it his mission to help make our world a better place. Over the course of his time at the university, Michalopoulos has received the Community Spirit Award from the Lieutenant Governor, a certificate of appreciation from Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services (ISIS), an Alumni Citizenship Award from Dalhousie’s Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies, and a Student Impact Award from the Dalhousie Student Union.
These awards recognize his contributions on campus, in the community and internationally. It began in 2008 when, at the age of 66, he walked the 820-kilometer pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela through France and Spain to raise money for the Nova Scotia Heart and Stroke Foundation in honour of his late wife Anna – an expedition he repeated in 2010.
In 2009, he volunteered as an English Teacher at ISIS, which led to an offer to volunteer in Mexico with a program that takes English workshops to rural communities. Michalopoulos returned to Mexico to volunteer with the University Autonoma of Campeche this summer and fall.
On campus, he is a known for inspiring and mentoring students and for speaking to classes about his experiences on the Camino de Santiago.
Michalopoulos’ living philosophy was inspired by his experiences with his wife, who in 1997 was given just a year to live. He left his management job, and they simplified their lifestyle to spend more time together. Anna survived another nine years.
“When we’re young, we all want the big career, the big pay cheque and the big house,” Michalopoulos says. “But those nine years I spent with Anna, when we didn’t have any of those things, taught me about what’s really important in life.”