IBD Scholarship Recipient Spotlight: Naji Balche

Naji Balche

Ahead of the 2019 AbbVie IBD Scholarship deadline, we’re catching up with our past recipients to learn about the cool initiatives they’re involved in around the Crohn’s and colitis community.

Naji Balche received the AbbVie IBD Scholarship in 2018. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and History at Western University in London, Ontario.

What have you done or are currently doing with the Crohn’s and colitis community?
As the founding President of the Crohn’s and Colitis Club of Western, I have an active role in raising awareness about inflammatory bowel disease both within the community at Western University and in London as a whole. In its first year of operations, our club grew to include 42 members and ran 3 successful events.

Earlier this year, we welcomed Dr. Brian Feagan, a worldwide expert in Crohn’s disease, and Olympian Alyxandria Treasure to our campus. Our audience had the opportunity to learn about current advancements in IBD research and have their questions answered by our keynote speakers. Despite the poor weather, we had a good turnout. Our speakers’ presentations were also livestreamed and viewed thousands of times. More recently, we hosted a volleyball tournament with a turnout of over 50 players.

My activism and involvement has enabled me to develop strong, positive relationships with both Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and the London Health Science Foundation, which will ensure a bright future for our club moving forward. We are working toward our long-term goal: hosting a fundraising walk for Crohn’s and colitis in London during the school year. As the annual Gutsy Walk takes place in the summer, while most students are back at home, our local walk would be a great opportunity for them to learn about these illnesses and contribute to our cause while at school.

How has receiving the AbbVie IBD Scholarship impacted your journey through school?
The scholarship has been extremely helpful, especially now, considering the changes to tuition and OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program). Stress, and especially financial stress, is one of the biggest causes of my flare-ups. Being a scholarship recipient has given me peace of mind knowing that some of the financial burden has been lifted.

Moreover, with the scholarship money going directly towards my tuition, I was able to use my OSAP funding to cover other expenses. As a full-time student, I found it difficult to work enough hours to pay my bills while devoting time to my extracurricular commitments. This scholarship definitely removed a large stressor from my life and allowed me to distribute my attention equally between school and volunteering.

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of applying for the scholarship?
I encourage all students living with IBD to apply. Receiving this scholarship has enabled me to connect with so many people in my community affected by IBD. Before I started the Crohn’s and Colitis Club of Western, I didn’t think there was much I could do to make a large impact in my community. However, through this club and with the support of the scholarship, I was able to bring together dozens of people committed to our cause.

What I’ve found is that, by working with my community, there are no limits to the kind of impact we can have. Although I may have founded the Crohn’s and Colitis Club of Western, I could not have successfully ran our events without the support of my club members.

My advice to students thinking about applying for the scholarship is to consider all of the ways, no matter how small, in which you can help your community. Whether you’re a volunteer for an event or the President of a club, your contributions can have an impact.

To learn more about the AbbVie IBD Scholarship and submit your application, click here.

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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