Times Colonist

Thrifty donation boosts cancer agency internship­s

- JEFF BELL

Navraj Chima was so inspired by his student internship at the B.C. Cancer Agency that he has donated countless hours as a volunteer in the four years since.

Now 21 and a third-year microbiolo­gy student at the University of Victoria, Chima spent the summer of 2004 after Grade 11 working in the Trev and Joyce Deeley Research Centre. The five-year-old research facility is part of the B.C. Cancer Agency’s Vancouver Island Centre adjacent to Royal Jubilee Hospital.

“This internship affected me so much that I actually continued to volunteer here at the centre in the lab, and now I’m part of the B.C. Cancer Foundation Youth in Philanthro­py Program,” Chima said.

Chima and others were gathered at the centre yesterday to celebrate a donation that will help the B.C. Cancer Agency’s High School Internship Program expand its focus to reach schools all over Vancouver Island. Malcolm Webster of Thrifty Foods was present to donate $25,000 to the foundation to establish the Thrifty Foods Research Endowment Fund.

The fund will support the existing program that began in 2004 for Greater Victoria students in Grade 11. It grew in 2006 to include Cowichan Valley students.

Dr. Brad Nelson, founding director of the Trev and Joyce Deeley Research Centre, said the internship program has been positive for staff and students. “Every high school on Vancouver Island now can nominate up to two students,” he said. The students chosen then take part in a day-long session at the centre.

“From that group we select four interns who come and work here for the summer. We put them on real research projects.”

Nelson said there are two goals.

“One is to really focus on cancer prevention, and getting the word out — especially to the youth in our community — about the fact that up to 50 per cent of cancers can be prevented with the proper lifestyle choices,” Nelson said.

“The second major thrust of this program is about careers in medicine, careers in science, giving the kids their first exposure to what biomedical research is all about. ”

Chima said the new funding “will allow other students to have the same experience­s that my peers and I had.”

Chima said he will involved in the Youth in Philanthro­py group’s next event, a fundraisin­g art show and auction scheduled for Saturday at St. Michaels University School from noon to 3 p.m. It reprises a successful art event held last year, he said, and features work provided by young people, cancer agency staff and others.

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