Four vet tech students were awarded the Change Maker Award by the Board of Governors at Algonquin as a result of their work on animal welfare in northern Indigenous communities.
The Change Maker Award is given to students to formally recognize their success on a project.
Jen Bozowskyj, Heather Jackson, Valerie Fenske and Michelle Anne Olsen were recipients of this award. But, they give credit to the organization that they went under — Grey Bruce Aboriginal Qimmiq Team (GBAQT).
GBAQT’s goal is to practice safe animal population control by spaying and neutering the animals.
Algonquin’s veterinary technician program thought it would be more beneficial to send Bozowskyj and Jackson, first-year students, after originally sending Fenske and Olsen, who are graduates, as it was an opportunity for first-years to gain experience and further their studies.
Bozowskyj and Jackson travelled north of Thunder Bay to Lake Helen, which is near the town of Nipigon. Then on to rocky Bay which was about 45 minutes further north from Lake Helen for their one week educational trip with GBAQT.
In order to be selected, they had to submit their resumes and detail the reasons they wanted to go.
The students got to work alongside veterinarians , practicing vet techs and members of the communities up north.
“We got hands-on experience with the animals without the stress of being evaluated, it was like a stress-free opportunity to try all the things we’ve been taught, ” said Bozowskyj.
The trip was more than just a learning opportunity. It was also a chance for the students to give back by helping GBAQT in their important work.
“These communities are really isolated, they are in the north of Ontario. (They are) probably one or two hours away from the nearest town. So, for them to have veterinary services is not available,” said Olsen. “What happens is because these places don’t have a regular vet, is there is no incentive to spay and there are a lot of strays.”
The stray dogs pose a threat to human life because there is such a large number of them and they become aggressive. That is why the four students work alongside GBAQT was and still is so important.
“It was rewarding to be recognized but personally getting to go on that trip was reward enough; the award wasn’t something we expected, I just thought it (the trip) would be a great experience I’d get,” said Jackson.
And with Jackson agreeing with Bozowskyj, saying “GBAQT are the real change makers, not us, they are providing the help that is really, really needed for these communities.”