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Healthcare shapes past and future for Red Deer’s Young Citizen of the Year

August 1, 2018

Award-winning volunteer Gian Estoesta preps for his shift at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

‘Volunteering has helped me become more compassionate and enlightened’

Story by Tracy Kennedy

RED DEER — You wouldn’t think that a person who spent much of his childhood in hospitals would willingly return to one on a regular basis. Yet that’s exactly what teenager Giancarlo Estoesta does, every second Wednesday, as an emergency department volunteer at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre (RDRHC).

Gian, as he is known, has been volunteering at the hospital for the last two-and-a-half years. Outside of RDRHC, he tutors in math and science, helps feed the homeless, collects winter clothing with his parish and participates in a number of community events, including the annual Festival of Trees.

It’s for these activities that the 19-year-old received the 2018 Rotary Young Citizen of the Year award in May.  The Red Deer Rotary club recognizes one citizen annually under the age of 26, based on demonstrated leadership, community service, personal background and breadth of impact.

“I was prone to being sick when growing up; I didn’t have a great immune system. So for me to volunteer at a hospital — it’s just being on familiar territory and it compels me to help people like me,” says Estoesta. “Volunteering has helped me become more compassionate and enlightened, and more connected to people in my community.

“It’s a very rewarding experience because you get to share in different world views from people of all walks of life and that really betters your understanding of the world around you.”

As an immigrant from the Philippines who moved to Canada when he was 11, Estoesta considers volunteering an exercise in gratitude.

“I’ve always felt very fortunate because I live in a country where there’s free healthcare and everyone’s friendly. I have amazing friends, I have a loving family, I have good health, I have a good set of skills, and for me it’s a way to give back for all the blessings I have,” says Estoesta.

His history in health is paving a path to his future. Estoesta has finished his first year at Red Deer College in a Bachelor of Science in pre-med.

He hasn’t made up his mind on what precisely he’ll do when he completes his formal education, but knows it will be in the medical field.

“Compared to the many youth volunteers I’ve had the pleasure of working with over my 20-year career, Gian is one of the best,” says Darci Shave, AHS Volunteer Resources Coordinator, who oversees 283 volunteers, mainly youth, at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

“He embraces the reasons and rewards of volunteering and knows that the greatest gift often comes from the smallest acts of kindness.  He is positive, polite and respectful with everyone — and his commitment to giving back to his community is truly outstanding!

“I, for one, can’t wait to see Gian back in the hospital as a physician.  I know this will happen one day.  I just hope I am still around to see it!”