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Darosa’s struggles inspired her to help others

Kelowna’s Isis Darosa overcoming her adversity has inspired her to help others. She faced racism and discrimination because of her sexuality and ethnicity. Mental health issues challenged her for many years, but she noted it was something her family didn’t talk about, even though they meant well.

Her dedication has resulted in her becoming one of 14 young Canadians named scholars of the 2024 Terry Fox Humanitarian Award Program. This 22-year-old psychology student at UBC Okanagan also volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club. Darosa is a trained behavioural interventionist who works with developmentally disabled children and advocates for minorities and those experiencing homelessness. When she was 17, she found herself alone on the streets after a difficult event with her family. She was still in high school and trying to graduate.

Darosa’s mother survived a refugee camp in Thailand after fleeing the Vietnam War, while her father’s family immigrated to Canada from China with a Portuguese background. The family faced financial hardship and often struggled to afford enough food. Darosa took on the role of a second mother to her younger autistic brother, finding comfort and purpose in doing so. After returning home from living on the streets, she committed herself to caring for at-risk and homeless youth, raising funds, and working to reduce food waste.

She has spent more than 10,000 hours as a volunteer in the community. She has helped start and speaks at Kelowna Women’s Day every year. She reaches out to people on the streets, supports non-profit groups, and teaches about good relationships, safe sex, and naloxone kits. She wants to be there for young people dealing with homelessness, food insecurity, and substance abuse.

The Terry Fox Humanitarian Award Program was started in 1982. It gives scholarships to young Canadians who want to follow Fox’s example. The award includes a $28,000 scholarship. Additionally, Darosa was awarded a $26,800 Ted Rogers Future Leadership Award in 2023. Darosa finds inspiration in using her past pain to create a better future for everyone and is grateful for the financial support she has received.