When I first walked into the Oxfam office, I had recently moved back to Vancouver and was writing my thesis for McGill University. Holed up for months with my computer, an awful lot of reports, and a thesis deadline looming, I was beginning to feel disconnected from the grassroots work of the social justice issues I was writing about. In Montreal, I had been actively involved with Amnesty International and the Rights and Democracy Network, but in Vancouver I had not yet found the community of people who spoke my language.’ Attending the volunteer orientation meeting that night changed all that – at Oxfam I felt revitalized and connected to an incredible community of people. Joining on, I soon found myself working on coordinating `Human rights are women’s rights, an event aimed to raise awareness about the Millennium Development commitment to work towards gender equality.
What appealed to me about Oxfam were its public education campaigns and the active work it was doing in communities – both locally and internationally. I also soon quickly learned that Oxfam supported people’s creativity – it was really about envisioning a project and using the resources at hand to put it into action.
With a background in human resources and the private education sector, I had experience with project planning, but Oxfam gave me the opportunity to learn about how initiatives were implemented in the non-profit community. While resources were sometimes limited, this was balanced by the energy, ability, and creativity of its members.
Currently, I sit on Oxfam’s BC/Yukon Regional Steering Committee and act as a liaison between this committee and the Vancouver office’s Public Services Campaign Committee. I’ve also coordinated Oxfam public education campaigns, and at the moment am working on an art contest that raises awareness about all the right all children have to access primary education. The contest and its connected educational workshops is now underway in Greater Vancouver elementary schools.
I think the most incredible feeling is when you find out about the effects of something you organized or were a part of. I believe that so much of what we do at Oxfam has positive impacts we never imagine. For example, after a recent workshop related to the art contest,a grade 6 and 7 class spontaneously decided they wanted to fundraise for Oxfam. You never know what will happen when you get out there and start doing something – and that can be very exciting.
Being involved with Oxfam has been an incredible experience. I feel I’ve been able to connect with a community of people who care deeply about issues of justice and have the willingness, motivation and skills to work together to take action on them. I’ve also gained valuable hands-on experience with activities such as event planning, volunteer management, and policy development in an NGO setting.