Sundays are the best days to catch a few spare minutes of Seham Rabaa's time. It's one of the few days she's not tutoring, organizing her school's fundraising activities, teaching karate or helping out in her community's music or after school program.
That's not to say she's sitting idle. Sunday is the day Rabaa, 16, devotes to maintaining her A average at Laurentian High School.
Rabaa's long list of volunteer experience has recently earned her the Outstanding Youth Community Service Award. The award is presented to a young person who has demonstrated a leadership role in community service. This is the sixth year the Philanthropy awards have been organized by the Ottawa Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
“The award meant a lot,” says Rabaa. “I felt happy that people recognized my work.”
She says she felt there were many other people who deserved it more than she did, but was honoured by the fact they had chose her over them.
Andrea Burnett from Christie Lake Camp and the Skills Through Activity and Recreation program, nominated Rabaa for the award. She met Rabaa through the programs offered by Christie Lake in the Bellevue/Caldwell area. The Caldwell community has been home to the Rabaa family for the past 17 years.
Rabaa has the natural instinct to help others, says Burnett. “She didn't realize she was doing all this good.”
Rabaa is involved in “Rockers,” a program offered in her community that focuses on developing children's social skills. She helps develop and carry out the program's activities. She also took it upon herself to teach area children karate and to play the recorder.
“It's self-fulfilling. It's very rewarding. You get to work with little kids and you see their smiling faces. It cheers me up. That's more of my reward.”
Rabaa says she thought it was about time she started giving back to the community after all it has done in bringing together people of different race and colour. “It's very multicultural and it helps break down the barriers of racism.”
At school, she's part of the student council executive and is a peer mentor. In this role she acts as a neutral third party to help her peers resolve disputes.
“By helping others you help yourself. It's just as simple as that. There's no big thing behind it. As Canadian citizens I think it's our duty to help each other and to show others we're trying to break the barriers of hatred that exists.”
It comes as no surprise that Rabaa's long-term goal involves helping others.
“I would enjoy going into medicine but there are so many things I'm interested in as well, like psychology, working with people and even acting. I think becoming a doctor is what I have my eyes set on,” she says.
Seham Rabaa, left, was presented with the Outstanding Youth Community Service Award. Here she poses with Andrea Burnett from Christie Lake Camp.