As we prepare to celebrate our Annual General Meeting at the end of May, we think about all the people who made Heart-Links’ accomplishments in 2020 possible: donors, volunteers, our partners, and the project participants in Peru. Each and every one did their part to ensure that the work of building a more just and equitable world continues.

Today, we’d like to hightlight what that experience was like for Heart-Links board director Julia Rolo.

headshot of Julia Rolo

Julia was working as a chef in Berlin when the world started going sideways from the coronavirus pandemic. It was March 2020, and Prime Minister Trudeau was telling Canadians abroad to get home. Julia didn’t delay. She sold her things, got out of her apartment lease, and hopped on the next flight out of Germany.

She remembers moving into her mom’s basement in London and thinking she needed to “do something” to help the community. “Why didn’t I go to medical school?” she asked herself. “Why don’t I go do grocery shopping to help?”

Then she saw Heart-Links’ posting for new board members on the Innovation Works website.

Fast forward to 2021: Julia has been on the Heart-Links Board of Directors, serving also on our Fund Development Committee, for almost a year. She just completed a research coordinator position studying transnational care-giving experiences among immigrants in London, and she is currently working in long-term care as a personal support assistant for a client with limited mobility.

Seeing the frontline during this pandemic has only emboldened Julia to do more for communities in both Canada and in Peru.

Why was Julia drawn to Heart-Links? “When you have smaller or grassroots organizations,” she says, “it gives you real flexibility and you honour what people are seeking, a more fair and egalitarian approach.”

woman stands beside painted wall that says "everywhere" and "berlin" and shows a kangaroo in a rocking chair

In Julia’s view, “We need more Heart-Links in the world. They do their little piece and it is very important.”

As a graduate in International Development from the University of Ottawa, Julia is a tremendous asset to our team. She understands that equitable and sustainable international development depends on relationships built on trust and respect. She loves that Heart-Links trusts our partners to know where to direct the financial support we provide. “It’s something special, the trust relationship,” she says. “What they have built is unique and it helps give people ownership over their lives.”

Joining Heart-Links’ Board of Directors during a pandemic had challenges. Meetings went strictly virtual and normal face-to-face connection was eliminated. What has Julia learned so far? “I really like the team,” she says, “and look forward to meeting in person one day. Many of our directors have a real connection and real experience on the ground with our partners. There is more emotion and capacity on our board, with the flexibility and ability to pivot to help our partners.”

What are a few other things we can tell you about Julia? She has a cat named Lasagna. She loves cooking at home. And her favourite place in the world is Sophia, Bulgaria.

Heart-Links would like to thank Julia Rolo and all our directors and committee volunteers for their hard work and dedication during this challenging year. Because of people like you, a more just and equitable world is possible.

You can meet Heart-Links 2021 board of directors and learn more about our work in Peru by joining us for our AGM. Learn more here.