2017 Volunteer Toronto Legacy Award given to Baycrest Youth Leader

Volunteer Baycrest Volunteer Services Youth Council President Shaira Wignarajah is an inspiring young volunteer. For the past seven years, Shaira has been a friendly visitor, program escort and Youth Council member. And now, she is also the deserving recipient of the 2017 Volunteer Toronto Legacy Award.

The award recognizes Torontonians who are changing their community for the better and leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come.

What started out as a 40-hour high school requirement for Shaira (pictured right), soon became more than 1,000 hours of giving back in many different ways – often in leadership roles. As a volunteer at Baycrest Health Sciences, she has received three recognition awards for contributions and at 22 years old is Volunteer Toronto’s youngest award recipient for 2017.

Shaira says her passions lie in helping young individuals realize their potential and improving their mental and emotional health. She will leave a rich volunteer impact and legacy at Baycrest. For instance, in 2011 she noticed that a program which offered manicures to residents happened only once a week, and was thus only able to service a minimum amount of residents. With staff encouragement and support, Shaira created the “Glitz & Glamour” program, whereby youth volunteers come in each day to provide this service to residents on several floors of the Apotex Centre, Jewish Home for the Aged.

While working as a summer intern a few years back, Shaira identified the need to expand the Volunteer Department’s job shadowing program. As a result, today, any youth volunteer can go online to view a greatly increased number of job shadowing opportunities and then contact the department to find a placement. Soon afterwards, she became Co-Vice President of Baycrest’s Youth Council, serving for two years, and is currently its Co-President, serving for another two-and-a-half years.

Shaira is also a volunteer at the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre, is co-chair of the Campus Mental Health Strategy at York University, and sits as a member on the North Toronto Health Link Patient and Family Advisory Council.

She has written, edited and published eight articles in medical journals, along with an article on Advanced Care Planning published in Hospital News. Shaira also presented at the World Cancer Congress in Australia and delivered a keynote address at the Second Global Congress on Hospice & Palliative Care. She is currently a fourth year student at York University in Kinesiology (BSc).

Shaira’s other accomplishments and awards include: Winner of the 2015 Ontario Volunteer Service Award and representing Baycrest in 2014 at the World Cancer Congress in Melbourne, Australia, where she presented a poster on therapeutic touch.

Congratulations to Shaira for winning the 2017 Toronto Youth Volunteer Legacy Award!

[Parts of this story have been excerpted from the Volunteer Toronto awards page].