National Volunteer Week: Gillian's story

WWF-Canada volunteer Gillian Chamberlain has had a passion for animals since before she can remember. Since the beginning of March, the grade 11 Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute student has been spending two afternoons a week after school working in WWF’s Toronto office for the Arctic team. A busy team often travelling to remote locations, the breathtaking images they capture of the Canadian Arctic are sometimes not organized as well they could be. Gillian has been combing through thousands of images, cataloguing them and flagging those wildlife photography gems WWF is so well known for.

WWF-Canada volunteer Gillian Chamberlain, 17, with one of her favourite images from the Arctic cataloguing project.   © Megan Nesseth / WWF
WWF-Canada volunteer Gillian Chamberlain, 17, with one of her favourite images from the Arctic cataloguing project. © Megan Nesseth / WWF

When asked what inspired her to volunteer for WWF, Gillian says simply: “As I’ve grown up, I learned about the ways in which humans are putting animals’ lives at risk. I believe that the impact humans are having on wildlife and their natural habitat is horrible, and I’ve always wanted to do something to help these animals. I believe that WWF is working to help an amazing cause, and I wanted to be a part of that work.”
Gillian wants to study biology after she graduates from high school, and is interested in a wide variety of disciplines, from wildlife biology and conservation to marine biology and zoology. Though she’s always known she wanted to work with animals, she says her volunteer experience has only served to solidify her future ambitions.
“My experience volunteering at WWF has driven me to continue to push myself to be successful in this path,” she says. “It has made me more passionate about this amazing cause, and shown me that it is possible to have a career that I love while supporting a cause I am very passionate about.”
Gillian has done a great job so far getting the Arctic team’s photos in order, a project large enough to carry her volunteer work through to the end of the school year. Though not every photo is worthy of a magazine cover, Gillian says there have been a few that have made her stop in her tracks.
“Photos of mothers in the wild with their young are always the photos that make me pause. The young animals always look so vulnerable, and the mother always stays close to protect them as if they know their lives are in danger. It’s those photos that remind me why wildlife conservation is so important. We need to give these young animals a chance to grow up and thrive in their natural habitat.”
It’s been these moments that have reminded her about the importance of volunteering, and how it can sometimes lead young lives to a future they had never even dreamed of.
“I find that people in high school often do not know what they want to do with their lives and feel like they are just another person in world,” she says. “I believe that volunteering gives younger people the ability to feel like they are helping the community and making an impact. They are also able to gain experience in different in areas in which they are passionate, and they may discover their future career. My experience volunteering so far has driven me as a person and let me delve further into my passion of wildlife conservation. I am very grateful that I have been able to volunteer with WWF, and would recommend that anybody my age get involved in his or her community and volunteer.”