Olivia, who graduated from Eastend High School in June and is currently attending the University of Regina, has been selected for the 2014 Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award.
Created in 1995, the Caring Canadian Award recognizes individuals who volunteer their time to help others and to build a smarter and more caring nation.
The award also highlights the fine example set by volunteers like Olivia, whose compassion and engagement are so much a part of the Canadian character.
Olivia admitted that she was surprised, and humbled, to learn that she had been selected for the honour.
“I was shocked to learn that I had even been nominated – that was flattering enough,” said Olivia. “Honestly, before this all happened, I didn’t know such awards existed.”
Olivia was nominated for the Caring Canadian Award by Eastend principal Dee Dean.
“When I read the criteria for the award, it felt like there should have been a picture there with Olivia’s name on it,” said Dean. “She is the definition of what this award is all about.”
“She eats, breathes and sleeps making life better for others.” added Dean. “She makes the lives better for every single person she comes in contact with.”
Olivia was an active leader during her time at Eastend School and was involved in programs that ranged from athletics to the SRC and the local SADD chapter.
“No one is more selfless than Olivia – she is always caring about others,” said Dean.
“Every part of Olivia’s life is a cause,” she added. “Her mission is really to make this world a better place to live.”
The award comes during a difficult year for Olivia and the Arnal family, who suffered the tragic loss of two brothers/sons – Sean (16) and Lyndon (10) – earlier this summer.
“We’ve had a tough year and I really wondered if I had lost my ability to put my heart into helping others,” said Olivia. “But the award has helped remind me of the importance of being a caring, loving and supportive person for others.”
Being a first-year university student – and moving from a small rural community to a large city – hasn’t stopped Olivia from getting involved as a volunteer.
“Being involved in such important causes gives me a reason to press forward,” she explained. “Life isn’t about living for yourself and your own benefit but for the life you can give others. This goes for communities, countries and world wide. We need to take advantage of the fact we have so many privileges, and let someone else experience that.”
Olivia will receive her award during an event being held in conjunction with We Day Saskatchewan 2014 conference set for this Friday in Saskatoon.
We Day is an annual “youth empowerment” event organized by the Free the Children charity. Held in cities across Canada and the United States, We Day motivates youth to take action on local and global issues.
Olivia was one of four founding members of the We Day Committee at Eastend School three years ago and remained a strong leader in the program until her graduation.
Twenty-eight members of the Eastend School We Day Committee, joined by five adults, will be attending the celebration.
As many as 15,000 other students and advisors from across the province are also expected to attend the event at SaskTel Place in Saskatoon.
Eastend may be showcased at the conference for its inspiring effort in raising $10,000. Those funds – raised through the dedicated volunteer effort of the local We Day committee – are being used to build an entire schoolroom in a small community in Kenya called Mwangaza.
Another $1,600 was donated to Free the Children in memory of Sean, who was also an active member and supporter of Eastend’s We Day program.
Olivia said her award was a team effort.
“This is really a team win,” said Olivia. “It’s not about me, but the strength of our
entire We Day team.”
“One of my favorite quotes, which is one I have stamped many places within our We Day Foundation is, ‘never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has,” continued Olivia. “I think that quote defines Eastend School We Day in my opinion. My team and the team which is continuing after me is a small group of thoughtful and committed students who are making a positive impact in our world, and that’s something that unites us. We are all proud of this.”
Olivia says her involvement with We Day helped her forge some wonderful friendships and close bonds.
“If you aren’t on a team with a meaning and a shared goal with such passion, those connections don’t form,” said Olivia.
“My We Day committee in Eastend school last year was absolutely incredible and I would not be anywhere without every single one of them,” she added. “Every idea I brought forward to the team was met with enthusiasm. Without each of them having their hearts set on this dream with me, it could not have happened.”
The Caring Canadian award ceremony will take place at the Delta Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon on Thursday, the day before the We Day conference.
Among those attending the banquet will be Eastend We Day Committee advisors Jaime Morvik and Dee Dean, as well as the four Grade 12 students in the group – Lisa Wanlin, Hannah Basso, Emery Scott and Abby Bristow. Olivia will also be joined by her mom Anne at the ceremony.
Olivia is a first year University of Regina student who ultimately hopes to enter Law School and become a prosecution lawyer.