Helping children find places to be themselves

2013 Hearts of the Community Volunteer Award winner Tiana Paltiel

Tiana Paltiel

Volunteering is second nature for Grade 12 student Tiana Paltiel.

The Stelly’s Secondary student has been volunteering for close to 10 years and is headed off on her latest endeavor next month.

“I’m heading to Nepal in (March) with Stelly’s Global Perspectives to volunteer there so I’m really looking forward to that,” she said.

Paltiel has volunteered in many capacities including as a swim coach for Piranhas Swim Club and Bayside Middle School, a coordinator for Healthy Schools Week at Stelly’s, a leader at a local girls’ group, a server at Our Place in Victoria and as a volunteer at the Saanich Fair. But it has been her work with people with disabilities that has inspired her the most. Paltiel spends multiple days out of her week (when she’s not at school) working as a respite care provider for families who have children and family members with disabilities.

“I spend time with members from three families right now doing respite care,” she explained, adding she has worked with five families since she started.

“Right now I work with a young girl who has Down Syndrome and we do things like go to the library and the park, and we do yoga. I also work with a young man who has Cerebral Palsy and find activities and things we can do together.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing that not only am I helping those with a disability but that I’m also helping their parents and families because they get time to do the things they need to do as well.”

Paltiel’s interest in working with people with disabilities began early.

“I started being interested in respite care really early on when my poppa was in care. I was young, but when I started going to see him in care I thought to myself  that was something I liked doing.”

Paltiel took the Respite Course through Queen Alexandra Hospital and has since been inspired to turn her interests to nursing.

“I’m applying to the nursing program at Vancouver Island University so hopefully that’s what I’ll be doing,” she said.

Along with traveling to Nepal, Paltiel is looking forward to volunteering for the second year in a row with Operation Trackshoes (OT), an event dedicated to giving youth with disabilities an opportunity to compete in track, field and swimming events.

“It’s a really rewarding experience to be able to give those kids an opportunity to be themselves and spend time together as a group,” Paltiel said. “By the end of the event you really see personalities come out and it’s so great to be able to give the kids an environment where they feel safe to be themselves.”


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