Distress Centre was fortunate to have Angela Danko (pictured) assisting the Fund Development and Communications team this summer.

My name is Angela Danko and I’m entering my last semester of my B.A in Psychology at the University of Calgary. This summer, I was chosen to be one of Nexen’s Not-For-Profit summer students, where students get the opportunity to work with a non-profit that Nexen supports.

The Not-For-Profit summer student program was developed in collaboration with Nexen’s ReachOut Community Investment program. According to Nancy Eaton-Doke, Team Lead of Campus Relations at Nexen, this program is meant to provide students with an opportunity to gain experience a non-profit organization, while still maintaining a connection with the oil and gas industry.

Nexen selects from its new or existing community partners who demonstrate a need, or could benefit from having a summer student at no added cost to the agency. While this program has been in place for seven years, this is the first year Distress Centre has participated in this program.

“Nexen has been a proud supporter of the Distress Centre Calgary since 2006.” says Nancy. “The agency benefits from a full time employee whose salary is covered by Nexen, and we are able to be creative in how we contribute to our communities!”

When I got the email from Nexen that I had been chosen for this program, I was excited to find out I was going to be placed at the Distress Centre. As someone studying psychology, this opportunity seemed to be a perfect fit in terms of my academic background, interests and personal experience.

Working with an experienced and passionate Fund Development & Communications team allowed me to expand my knowledge and organizational, analytical and communication skills beyond what I expected. I am thankful to have worked with a group of people who were eager to help me grow and learn.

I was involved in a variety of projects ranging from fundraising and stewardship initiatives; setting up an Alumni Program; conducting market and prospect research; preparing news stories and donor profiles. Among these and other miscellaneous tasks, I was definitely busy all summer!

The opportunities I received to go into the community and promote Distress Centre’s services were some of my favorite. My most rewarding memories were when people approached us and told us they’ve called Distress Centre before, and wanted to thank us for being there when they needed someone to talk to. Although I never operated the crisis lines during my time here, this exchange was a real reminder of the impact a simple phone call could make. Distress Centre volunteers and staff bring hundreds of people comfort and even save lives each and every day.

Coming to Distress Centre has opened my eyes to how essential services like this are to the community, and more importantly how essential it is that people can access them.  As someone who has struggled with their own mental health, I understand the real or perceived barriers people face when it comes to seeking help.

Despite growing awareness for mental health issues, I believe there are still many systemic gaps that prevent people from seeking the help they need. The fear of being stigmatized or not knowing where to turn for help are challenges I have experienced myself.

I’ll be applying to law school this winter and my goal is to work towards remediating these gaps in the health and social sectors, through policy and advocacy. Seeing the invaluable work that non-profits do, such as Distress Centre, and the enormous impact they have within our community has only solidified my interest in pursuing a career within these sectors.

I am thankful to have been given this opportunity from Nexen. I have learned so much during my time here that I can take forward in my academic and professional career. I wish I had known about Distress Centre earlier on in my life, but going forward I will make sure I advocate on its behalf. Crisis and stress are inevitable, but having a resource to turn to could make going through it a little easier.