Esraa’s Journey with Daughters for Life
Daughters for Life Foundation is proud to celebrate another successful and brilliant scholar, Esraa Hassan. In June 2022, Esraa graduated from Western University’s Brescia University College with a Bachelor’s in Food and Nutrition.
Coming from a humble background with three siblings, and limited financial resources, a scholarship would allow Esraa to go beyond the city where they lived. She was in a Pharmacy program at Zagazig University, in her hometown in Egypt when she started applying for scholarships. Due to finite resources and systemic problems at her university, she was unable to work or secure field placements, tutoring sessions were scant, and mentoring was impossible. Esraa spent a great deal of extra time educating herself, but her hard work paid off!
Esraa heard about Daughters for Life while still in high school in Zagazig, and with her family’s encouragement, especially her mom’s, she decided early on to study hard and gain the necessary grades and experiences to be a strong contender. Although the DFL selection process was obviously a competition, everyone was very supportive. Esraa joined DFL in September 2018, and she graduated in June 2022 from Western University’s Brescia University College, Canada’s only women’s college.
Throughout the four years of the scholarship, DFL has provided Esraa with an impactful support system. Starting with Dr. Abuelaish who was a great inspiration to Esraa as he offered her career insights and guidance that influenced the trajectory of her educational path. Then, Jacklin Ibrahim, DFL’s Director of Operations and Programs and the frontline representative who provided unwavering emotional and practical support in numerous areas. Through DFL’s mentorship program, Esraa was matched with Darina Landa, a DFL board member and the University of Toronto’s Executive Director of Advancement at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine. Darina coached her through the application and interview process for the Dietetics Practicum and graduate programs.
As Esraa had most enjoyed her Nutrition courses during her year at Zagazig University, she decided to pursue a degree in Food and Nutrition and plans to become a registered Dietitian in Ontario. Brescia University College was an excellent fit because of the quality of education and faculty members, school environment, and Brescia’s competency-based learning model, which helps students to hone skills that are necessary for life after graduation. For Esraa, the Social Awareness and Engagement competency were especially impactful in shaping her thinking process, as it made her constantly evaluate the impact that her education would make on improving society. Brescia’s faculty members provided not only top-notch education and field opportunities but also guidance and mentorship. Dr. Peggy O’Neil, who taught Esraa Leadership and Food Management, encouraged her to get involved with SHEA – the Student Human Ecology Association, and Diversify Dietetics, a project that aims to increase enrolment of students of color into graduate dietetics programs.
Esraa’s interest in Public Health, which was sparked by Dr. Abuelaish, was solidified by her experiences via Western University’s “Western Heads East” program. This program allowed Esraa to participate in a virtual nutrition internship in Rwanda where a probiotic-based cereal product, igikoma, is being developed. This program included Canadian and African community partners – the University of Rwanda, Rwanda, Living with Happiness-Icyemezo (LWHI), and Rwandan Mothers-TEAM (RMT). She learned not only about the scientific work involved in developing such a product to fight malnutrition, but she also learned about business planning, uncovered systemic biases, determined how to overcome socioeconomic obstacles such as access to refrigeration and economic resources, etc.
Brescia also allowed Esraa to work with the London Food Policy Council in youth engagement, and to partner with others in the community in public health and education-related projects. She assisted local healthcare providers in Ontario in creating culturally appropriate nutrition booklets for newcomers to Canada to support their Dietary Acculturation. Thanks to her newfound interest in Clinical Nutrition, Diabetes Education, Public Health, and her continuing academic and professional excellence, Esraa will be pursuing her dietetics graduate practicum in Nova Scotia Health Authority, Central Zone as of January 2023, which will qualify her to practice as a Registered Dietitian RD in Canada.
Thanks to the life-changing opportunity offered by DFL, Esraa is now exploring her global interests and she hopes to support disadvantaged communities around the world, working in international nutrition and public health programs. She plans to eventually pursue a Ph.D to further her educational studies and expertise. DFL and Brescia University College have modelled how to be a global citizen, how to empower others, and that you are never too young to foster change. Esraa mentioned that “the most valuable thing you can do is focus on your education and to use that knowledge to contribute to society”, a belief that Esraa and DFL share.