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Julie Coombs receives the Department of Education High School Volunteer Award from Indian River High principal Brian Hancock.
Julie Coombs receives the Department of Education High School Volunteer Award from Indian River High principal Brian Hancock. - Cory Hurley

Humanitarian trips to Philippines were life-changing for Indian River High graduate

SPRINGDALE, N.L. — Julie Coombs had an opportunity to take a family vacation pretty well anywhere in the world earlier this year, she, and her younger sister Emily, decided upon a humanitarian trip to the Philippines.

It is that type of unselfishness and dedication to others that made the Indian River High graduate a worthy selection of the Department of Education High School Volunteer Award.

“It is an honour,” Julie said of the award she received Thursday, June 28 at the year-end special achievement awards ceremony. “To win this, I am really proud.”

Julie is a coach for the junior girls volleyball team at Indian River High, but it is outside the school she contributes most to the community. She is a leader for the youth program at the Springdale Pentecostal Church. Growing up attending the church, she said helping out there has become a normal part of life.

“I love it,” she said, “being able to help and see the kids grow and come together.”

Julie said volunteering and helping improve the lives of others is a learned trait acquired from her parents Troy and Janet. The family travelled to the Philippines in 2015 to participate in missionary work alongside Springdale’s Marilyn Curtis. She was inspired by the work done through Andrew’s Children’s Ministries for homeless and abandoned children.

In fact, it was so inspiring, when her parents proposed a family vacation for April of this year, there was no destination and no experience she wanted more than to return to the Philippines on another humanitarian trip.

“You hear all these stories about kids on the other side of the world not being able to eat or have clean water,” she said. “Most people feel sad and want to do something.

“Everybody can do something, it just means a lot more when you go over and do it yourself and actually experience it.”

During the two week visit in April, the Coombs family took part in feeding programs for families there and helped with an extended vacation bible school for youth. Julie said the experience really is life-changing.

“It really shows me how to appreciate all the stuff we have, even the little things,” she said. “It makes me grateful for the things I have and the people I have around me.”

Coombs has enrolled at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook. She hopes to acquire a bachelor of science through the computational mathematics program.

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