The health of your community is in your hands
Shania Bhopa is bringing global health to local communities
Shania Bhopa discovered her passion for global health through experiential learning opportunities in her undergraduate studies at McMaster University. Through her experience, Bhopa serves as a reminder that student life is all about putting yourself out there to find out exactly what sparks your soul and fuels your fire.
“I was always interested in the social determinants of health and specifically, advocacy. I never really understood how to kind of bridge that gap between the two. I [began] doing some research on global issues that exist here locally and we don't have to go overseas to understand how to help people out of poverty . . . things that happen overseas are actually affecting us here in Canada,” said Bhopa.
Having completed her bachelor's degree at McMaster in communication studies with a minor in health studies, Bhopa is currently pursuing a master's degree in science in global health at McMaster. As a recipient of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council research scholarship, she is currently working away at her master’s thesis.
Bhopa has always enjoyed volunteering and knew from a young age that she wanted to start her own charity in some capacity. In May 2020, Bhopa and her sister launched the Canadian Courage Project.
Founded upon the belief that a child’s health shouldn’t be left up to chance, regardless of where they live or their level of education. The Canadian Courage Project aims to help homeless youth in Ontario and their animal companions.
“The reason that we're choosing this population is because they're often the population that doesn't get into the shelters. [For homeless children], their animal is [often] the only support network that they have. That is the only thing getting them through the day,” Bhopa explained.
Bhopa is also the founder and host of the Global Health Collective student podcast series, which she hopes will show others that anyone has the ability to make a difference. In her first season, the podcast was centred around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Season two, which launched on Feb. 3, will be based on stories from changemakers during COVID.
“The reason behind the podcast is we hear the amazing research, we hear these projects that people are doing, we see them on the news, but we don't actually hear what drives this human being. At the end of the day, they're a person and they're just like you and I. They're motivated and inspired, but what is inspiring them?” said Bhopa.
Bhopa hopes that the podcast shows others that confidence is everything when it comes to pursuing your passions, as evidenced by the wide array of global health professionals and their life experiences.
With a group of McMaster students, Bhopa is also currently working on launching the Global Health Youth Alliance, which she compared to Distributive Education Clubs of America. Similar to DECA, it is a student competition, but instead of focusing on the field of business, it will enable students to gain exposure in the field of global health.
They hope to create a micro-credential for elementary and secondary students in order to bridge the gap in the elementary and high school curricula pertaining to global health.
“We want to educate everyone on the fact that disparities exist right around you. You don't need to go overseas to tackle them. We are stronger together and youth need to be in places where decisions are being made. Specifically, we cannot make change and solve the world's problems with the same local thinking that caused them,” said Bhopa.
As a self-proclaimed “woman of habit,” Bhopa sets herself a schedule every day and encourages others to find time in their schedules not only for Zoom university sessions but also for themselves.
Each day, she sets time aside to listen to podcasts, do skincare, read and go on no-device walks. She then shares her wellness journey on her blog. In the near future, she plans on publishing both a children’s book and a wellness book for women.
For students looking to pursue opportunities in global health, Bhopa encourages them to claim their voice and choose opportunities that are right in their community, whether it be through approaching local officials or reaching out to changemakers and people you admire.
“You are in control of your circumstances, and if you believe [that], then nothing will ever get in your way. It's really just understanding exactly what your focus is, exactly what your passion is, why that's your passion and driving forward with that passion. If you have a focus, you are more likely to make an impact,” said Bhopa.
Bhopa encourages students to chase after their goals and realize that the world truly is your classroom. Through experiential learning, she emphasizes that we all have the ability to find our passions and make a difference in the world.