Carbonear woman a young humanitarian

Melissa Jenkins
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Red Cross recognizes Gina Colbourne for volunteer efforts

For those who know Gina Colbourne of Carbonear, it would be no surprise to learn she's been recognized many times for her hard work, dedication and academic achievements.

Gina Colbourne was excited to have her family on hand to see her receive the Young Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Canadian Red Cross. One of those family members was her nephew Max, who is one of her inspirations.

Late last month, the third-year medical school student was named the Red Cross Newfoundland and Labrador Young Humanitarian of the Year award at a ceremony in St. John's.

"It is essentially a recognition of people in Newfoundland and Labrador who dedicate their time and effort towards volunteerism, community involvement, and humanitarian interests," she said.

Colbourne told The Compass the award is one of her biggest achievements to date, but not just because she was the recipient.

"It is incredible to be recognized by your peers," she said. "I was nominated by my classmates, and that means the world to me."

Prior to this honour, Colbourne had received numerous other big achievements, including being named valedictorian of her Bachelor of Nursing 2012 class, where she won the medal for academic excellence.

Colbourne was also runner-up for the title of Miss Newfoundland and Labrador in 2013, is a previous Miss Teen Trinity Conception and has dedicated her time to many different local events over the past decade.

Although she is soon going to be a doctor, and very proud of her growth in medical school, she has a role in her life she can't compare to anything else.

"The role I'm most proud of is being 'Aunt Gigi' to my two-year-old nephew, Max," she beamed. "He is just the best little kid and he inspires me in everything I do."

A lot of volunteering

It wasn't an easy road for Colbourne to receive the award, although she makes it appear effortless.

Since moving to St. John's and attending Memorial University, she has taken on more responsibilities and volunteered with more organizations than ever before.

"I have worked with many great organizations in the past," she explained. "A lot of my volunteering stems from MUN Medicine. Every year they host the MUN Med Monte Carlo Charity Gala, which benefits local charities. I have been pretty involved with this organization both in a fundraising capacity as well as helping with charity selection.

"I have also dedicated a lot of my time to the Heart and Stroke foundation. I helped with volunteer coordination for the annual Red Dress Fashion Show, manned many information tables, assisted with blood pressure screening, and helping with fundraising."

Some of her other charities include Easter Seals, Single Parents Association, War Child Canada, the Janeway Reading Program and the Gateway Medical Clinic at the Association for New Canadians.

When asked what she believed was important about volunteering, she said it was important to give back to your community and "have some fun."

"I always stress the importance of 'little things,'" She said. "I don't think I've completed any grand gestures in my volunteer history. I just like to do little things here and there to help out. It all adds up."

The gala

The award banquet was held at the St. John's Delta and Convention Centre.

"It was one of the most incredible evenings of my life," Colbourne said. "When I first found out I was receiving the award, I was surprised but extremely grateful. Then, to be able to stand in front of my friends and family, and accept an award that I never sought to receive was an amazing experience.

"I certainly have never sought to be recognized, but when it happens, it's an overwhelming feeling."

Being a modest young woman, Colbourne admitted she knew many people she thought would have been deserving of the award as well.

The banquet was special for Gina because she got to receive the award in front of the most important people in her life.

"My family are my biggest supporters, most definitely. My mom (Judy) and dad (John) are the reason I am able to volunteer and contribute to the community. They have always encouraged me," she explained.

Her brother Robert, sister-in-law Jennifer and nephew Max are also big encouragers to her. And her boyfriend Andrew Rose, has been there for her to help when needed.

"He does it every time, without hesitation," she said. "I am very lucky."

Also at the awards gala was her Aunt Mallie, Aunt Doris and Uncle Dave, who she considers part of her immediate family.

Colbourne's next step is to continue with medical school, but not give up on her volunteering. You will likely see her at many different events over the next few years, promoting charities, fundraising and just helping out in her community.

Melissa.jenkins@tc.tc

Organizations: Red Cross, The Compass, Stroke foundation War Child Canada Delta and Convention Centre

Geographic location: St. John's, Carbonear, Newfoundland and Labrador

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