Julie Van Berkel
Program:Bachelor of Arts Degree
My name is Julie Van Berkel. I am a mature student who came to University of Guelph in 2016, after graduating from a Culinary Management Program with 5 years of career experience.
My decision to return to school is based upon two charitable trips to India where I developed a deep desire to do more humanitarian work.
In the fall of 2013, I spent 3 months in Rishikesh, India to volunteer for an NGO supported institution called Mother Miracle School. The school provides education to underprivileged students and supports a youth training course as well as a Women’s Empowerment Centre.
I returned to Mother Miracle School in 2016. The school had added a bakery to their Women’s Empowerment Centre and I was invited back to help establish a baking program.
In a bid to further empower women in the region, I developed a program on the basics of baking and started a breakfast initiative for the 250 students and staff at the school. We also began selling our baked goods at local businesses, the proceeds of which created a sustainable income for the program.
After a powerful experience in India, I entered the University of Guelph Developmental Studies with a focus on gender issues and food security. I have continued my volunteer efforts and am the Guelph Chair of Universities Fighting World Hunger where we focus on food security and hunger education.
In the summer of 2018, I volunteered in Tanzania at an NGO organization called Iringa Partners. Under the supervision of Dr. Steffi Hamann, I completed an advanced study course in conjunction with an independent research course. My work in Tanzania was centered around teaching a gender empowerment course to high school girls. I also examined the impact of volunteer organizations on education as well as the efficiencies and/or deficiencies of women’s empowerment programs.
The University of Guelph continues to inspire me. I believe in evidence-based research and plan to pursue graduate studies at Guelph to build a humanitarian career with a strong foundation in theory and research.
I am also inspired by the Angel Gabriel Foundation behind the Summerlee Humanitarian Scholarship. I am funding my own education and the Scholarship allowed me to forgo paid work during my summer break such that I could deepen my learning while helping a worthy cause.
Because of donor generosity, I can continue my path uninterrupted and in so doing, I plan to always conduct myself in a manner that reflects the insight and kindness of your contributions. Thank you.