Whitby Ribfest 48Being a student, a common question that I receive a lot is "Where are you working for the summer?" This question is common and dreaded by many students but not to me. In fact, I can't wait to answer that question, I can barely hold in my excitement when I hear it. I have had the privilege to be the Summer Student for Epilepsy Durham Region for 2 summers now and wow I cannot be more thankful.

I could honestly go on forever with positive remarks about Epilepsy Durham Region and will spend as much time trying to advocate and make a difference for those living with Epilepsy.

Although I have not had any family members affected by this catastrophic disease, I have had friends that have Epilepsy. In elementary and high school, not knowing a lot about the disease, I was constantly trying to educate myself and understand truly what those friends were going through. On the outside looking in, it was hard for me to understand but on the inside looking out, it was even harder for those affected to even begin to be able to explain it to me and what they go through. I can remember attending Epilepsy assemblies as we would have more students attending our school with Epilepsy and thinking "Wow, I wish there was something I could do to help". I participated in fundraisers for the disease and have worn purple for Epilepsy Awareness Day every year but I finally found the best way to help through volunteering and my position as the summer student. The opportunity that I have been given has allowed me to connect and advocate for those living with Epilepsy which I am so thankful for. The inspiring individuals that I have been fortunate to meet and the stories that they have shared has allowed me to see and even brighter light on Epilepsy.

I am a huge believer in one million starts with one and that every single person can make a difference. Once I was fortunate enough to meet Dianne and Chelsea, they showed me that we truly CAN make a difference and they validated all my morals and hope for a stronger and more loving world. These two women are two of the most dedicated, hardworking, and lovable people you will ever meet. Their passion for Epilepsy Durham Region shines every single day. Of course with Epilepsy brings challenges and obstacles, but they just don't give up. I don't even think that the term "break" is in their vocabulary. Being able to watch them help so many clients and eliminate some of their fears is honestly the most rewarding thing that I have ever witnessed. There are so many worried and upset clients that enter the office because of their Epilepsy and they leave with so much more peace after being able to connect with Dianne and Chelsea. They focus on keeping the clients' dreams and aspirations big and try to eliminate some of their worries and fears. It truly amazes me how quickly they can both help someone whether the client is asking for support, a service or simply advocating for them. The challenges that many of our clients face is the strength and bravery that Epilepsy Durham Region continuously tries to build for them. They say that miracles are rare, but Dianne and Chelsea never forget to remind me that anything is possible and that miracles do exist. If you listen carefully, there are a million different ways to show how much you care about someone. Asking questions like "Watch your step", "Did you eat", or "Get some rest" are frequent questions that I hear daily. The hard working staff at Epilepsy Durham Region, not only ask many of those types of questions to their clients, but also their volunteers and office staff.

Bowmanville Ribfest 2015 1It is really hard for me to articulate the best words to show Epilepsy Durham Region my gratitude and appreciation for being a part of the team. I have not only learned so much about myself here but I am constantly inspired and motivated to keep a smile on my face no matter how hard life may get and to never give up on trying to make a difference in someone's life. We all faced different battles, and challenges in life but you are not defined by them. Especially those living with Epilepsy. You are not just your Epilepsy. You are unique, a fighter, and capable of achieving your dreams. Remember, hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destiny.


The Luckiest Summer Student
Jaana Kekki

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