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Meet Stefania Baccarella – CSS alumnus who makes the difference

I’ve always been drawn to working with people, learning from people, and helping people.

Over five years ago, Stefania Baccarella, a former student in Community Social Services at the University of Guelph-Humber, and her friend Veronica Marziale saw a challenge on social media asking people to do an act of kindness. randomly.

The challenge was posted by an account linked to the Jordana’s Rainbows Foundation, a Canadian nonprofit named in honor of Jordana Fiorini who sought to raise funds for childhood cancer.

Baccarella and Marziale have decided to launch a fundraising campaign around homemade wish bracelets. Their objective? To raise $ 500 for Jordana’s fund at SickKids.

Nine months later, the couple had raised over $ 40,000 (and the Jordana’s Rainbow Foundation has raised over $ 1.5 million since). Baccarella and Marziale were inspired to keep going, and their nonprofit – called Love and Above – raised more than $ 50,000 for research into diffuse intrinsic pontic glioma (a type of brain tumor that disproportionately affects children) and donated $ 23,000 in gift cards over the holiday season.

When Baccarella originally decided to take on the challenge of fundraising – working feverishly with Marziale to assemble enough bracelets to meet the demand – she had just graduated from UofGH and had recently started the Master of Social Work program at the University of Toronto.

In other words, she didn’t really have time to tackle a charity project of this magnitude. But characteristic of Baccarella, she just couldn’t resist an opportunity to help people.

Concentrated from an early age

Baccarella is now a social worker at Mackenzie Health in York Region, and she can honestly say that she is living her childhood dream.

As far back as she can remember, Baccarella wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a social worker. She still has vivid memories of seeing her mother in action grow professionally. She saw her mother’s intimidating workload – how her desk was always filled with documents, how her inbox was always filled with emails – but she also saw the difference her mother made in her life. his clients.

Baccarella knew the challenges of the job were worth it.

“I remembered people coming into her office and asking her to sit with her for half an hour. I knew she didn’t have time, but she always said: Yes, come in, ”Baccarella remembers. “I remember every minute she spent with someone, that person would feel like the center of the world.

“I’ve always been drawn to working with people, learning from people and helping people. ”

Baccarella began her undergraduate studies at another university, but began to feel that she was not making enough progress towards her career goals.

“At this university, I remember feeling really lost about how my degree would relate to a career,” she said.

So Baccarella decided to transfer to the University of Guelph-Humber. UofGH’s highly focused community social service program, supportive and close-knit environment, and the opportunity to gain work experience through a series of field internships are just a few of the factors that have contributed to its decision.

In the end, the internships Baccarella did gave her exactly the kind of career direction she was looking for.

Baccarella’s first placement was in a nursing home, where she was grateful for the chance to speak one-on-one with Holocaust survivors, whose stories and experiences she took with her. Then she had the opportunity to work with a totally different demographic at 360 Kids, where Baccarella gained more valuable experience helping at-risk youth.

It turns out that his final placement was also a trainer, as was the case with his current employer: Mackenzie Health. Although there were a few years between her placement in the field and her eventual employment at the hospital, Baccarella says it was a great help to go through her job interview with previous work experience at Mackenzie. aid.

“I spent my interview talking about my undergraduate experience with the organization,” she recalls. “It was a huge foot in the door.”

Now Baccarella finds himself in a quick position in the hospital where two days are not alike. She is part of a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals who work tirelessly to support large numbers of patients and families around the hospital.

Baccarella enjoys his job, although the pandemic has made a difficult job even more difficult.

On the toughest days, Baccarella looks back on his classes at the University of Guelph-Humber, where his instructors taught important lessons about the value of self-care.

These lessons are still useful – as is the social support network she formed at UofGH, which lasted for years after graduating from Baccarella.

“It really helps to have friends out in the field and honestly I made some amazing friends at the University of Guelph-Humber,” she said. “We were basically in the same classes together all day, every day at school. Now we keep in touch. Even though we’re all across Canada, we’ll still get together once a month and make a FaceTime call and talk about both the good things and our frustrations.

“They help me so much. No one understands what you are going through as someone in your field. I really think these friendships and relationships will last a long time.