Long before she became Canada’s first female astronaut, Dr. Roberta Bondar spent much of her childhood making a difference here on Earth. As a Girl Guide growing up in her hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., a young Roberta was a regular volunteer at her local hospital, helping patients who were cognitively impaired.
“I don’t know if we made a change in the patients’ lives,” she said to the audience gathered for Circle of Care’s annual volunteer recognition event this week. “But we definitely made a change in the lives of their caregivers, by giving them rest and showing them that someone else cared.”
Dr. Bondar, a neurologist, went on to head an international space medicine research team with NASA for over a decade, finding new connections between astronauts recovering from spaceflight and neurological illnesses on Earth, such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease. But making an impact on a smaller scale, said Dr. Bondar, is truly what makes the world go round.
“It’s a remarkable thing to be a volunteer. Whatever you do, you’re influencing more people than you can imagine,” she said. “If volunteerism stopped in the world, the world would stop. We can’t move forward as a society without volunteers.”
In 2009, she established the Roberta Bondar Foundation, a volunteering organization that promotes environmental sustainability, and educates the public on protecting natural species. In her work, she uses photography she has captured across much of the world, including Canada’s national parks.