The South Bayview Bulldog
March 7, 2014
Credit: The South Bayview Bulldog
Heidi Parker is back safe in South Bayview these days but her heart and hopes for her future are still in Africa. The remarkable 25-year-old graduate of Bessborough Public School, Leaside High and Queen's University has served two terms in that continent teaching people there about their health and the avoidance of disease.
"I love East Africa and I love the people," says Heidi as she enjoys one of her first cups of Starbuck's coffee on South Bayview since her return "I would like my life's work to be an opportunity to spend time over there but also to be able to come home for a while."
Heidi's earliest inspiration to be of help to people in Africa came during a science project at LHS. Her teacher, Helen Panayiotou organized a project in the prevention of AIDS and HIV. It was a formative moment for the young Heidi. She went home to Vanderhoof Ave. with the profound lesson still on her mind. It made her think. "I was shocked that not everybody lived the way we did in Leaside," says Heidi. And thus her sense of selfless work grew.
At university, Heidi joined Queen's Health Outreach in 2010 and became part of a team of 10 undergrads to spend a six-month stint in Kenya. The life-saving work and the allure of the land brought her back three years later to Tanzania as part of a project organized by the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF). The wide variety of work included assisting with training young people about sexual and reproductive health, evaluating training sessions to improve health care for mothers before, during and after giving birth.
Heidi has her MA in Teaching and Biology but she will give up that field if her hopes of a life doing good work in Africa come true.