Beata Levine volunteers in Zimbabwe as a research photographer. The 66-year-old Côte St-Luc resident has been doing volunteer work since she was 15. Photo courtesy of Beata Levine.

Beata Levine volunteers in Zimbabwe as a research photographer. The 66-year-old Côte St-Luc resident has been doing volunteer work since she was 15. Photo courtesy of Beata Levine.

BY BEATA LEVINE, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE APRIL 10, 2013

MONTREAL — I have always believed, as Saint Francis of Assisi said, that “it is in giving of oneself that one receives.”

In fact, these are words that I live by.

At 66 years young, I can say I have lived a wonderful life of privilege. I have my health and have had a supportive husband, Joe, for 45 years. I have children, grandchildren, incredible friends and good fortune. Yet there is another dimension to my life that fulfils me in a different way. And that is my life as a volunteer.

Ever since I was 15 years old, volunteerism has been a part of my life. I began as a candy striper, or someone who volunteers for non-medical tasks, at St. Mary’s Hospital. Over the years, I have volunteered in a wide variety of organizations. Volunteer work has always been about self-fulfillment and helping the broader community. The two have always gone hand-in-hand and this stands true even today, as I find myself halfway across the world volunteering yearly, deep in the African savannah.

My volunteer life grew with leadership roles in the home-and-school association at my children’s school, and as an animator for seniors’ groups. I continue to work as a vCOP, or volunteer citizen on patrol, in the city of Côte Saint-Luc. And I have travelled abroad to Israel to work on an army base through the Sar-El program.

With numerous other volunteer positions under my belt, I realize that nothing has touched me in quite the same way as my past three years of volunteer experience in Africa.

There is something unique about the hands-on experiences I have had in Africa, connecting with its people, land and magical wildlife. I feel as though I am making a remarkable difference in the projects I work on — both in Africa and here in Montreal.

At the present time, I am advocating for Basecamp Maasai Brand, which empowers disadvantaged women’s groups. Among other things, I make connections with local fair-trade retailers here in Montreal who can sell their crafts. I have also coordinated a very exciting pen-pal project between Olesere School in Kenya and at Akiva School in Westmount. I will be going to Africa again later this year to embark upon a new project, the Victoria Falls Lion Conservation Volunteer Project, at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I can hardly wait!

Volunteering has always been a great way to meet new friends from different parts of the world and diverse paths of life. Through email and social media, we stay in touch and share our concerns. Through the connections I have made with my fellow volunteers, I have learned that dedication and passion to a cause always makes a difference.

It has been a humbling experience working with the African Impact program for the past three years. I have grown to love so much more than my own small world. Volunteering has given me back so much in return. I have purpose in my life, a great deal of pride and a sense of self-fulfillment.

My only hope is that I can impress upon others how personally enriching it is to to look beyond oneself, and try through volunteering to make this world a better place.

Beata Levine, 66, of Côte St. Luc, has been doing volunteer work since she was 15 years old. She is currently involved with volunteer projects in Africa.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

In my opinion:  Beate Levine is an extraordinary Cote Saint-Lucer who has given some of her time to a project very close to my heart, vCOP.  She patrols our streets and parks regularly and now we know what she does with some of her other spare time.

I congratulate Bea for her sharing her incredible experiences with us and hope that she inspires many more to give of their time.  What a tremendous difference Bea makes in the lives of people near and far.  You can too.

vCOP Bea O'Levine gets into the St. Paddy's spirit

vCOP Bea O’Levine gets into the St. Paddy’s spirit