Jessica Silva is a fourth year health sciences student whose passions have driven her to reach out to the world and help people. She started volunteering at the age of 12, mainly with her church. She recalls the gratifying feeling that came with volunteering in Grade 9 to serve dinner for the less fortunate in her community. She has now been volunteering for about 10 years, and calls it an “act that benefits the greater community.” For Jessica, volunteering is “a continuous thing.”
Jessica’s perspective on volunteer work was broadened after volunteering with Free the Children in China in 2007, when she was 14. She discovered that she had a passion for travelling and discovering new cultures. In 2011, she embarked on another volunteering trip, this time to Zambia, where she discovered the importance of giving the best of herself in all situations. Through these community engagement experiences, she also learned the importance of “giving back and sharing with other people.” With this in mind, she encourages students to take advantage of the opportunity to volunteer.
Last year, Jessica Silva was named Team Leader for the Alternative Student Break team leaving for Nicaragua this May to build affordable housing. Why this particular project? Jessica tells us she strongly shares the values of the Nicaraguan Community Partner, Compañeros. “I want to work with sustainable and socially responsible organizations,” she says. She is very excited about this trip, whose theme is “Community Building.” During the trip, she will be mentoring students in country.
Jessica explains how she finds the time for both volunteer work and school. “It’s all about time management,” she says, “You prioritize your work and make time for important things or things that you are passionate about. By doing something you truly love, this process is easy.” She loves taking action and empowering others.
The challenges she has faced volunteering abroad have been different from those she has experienced locally. “Abroad, you feel like you can’t change anything, because there are so many barriers to change. So, you accept the people’s culture and always keep in mind that there are certain barriers you cannot overcome.”
With her local experience, the greatest challenge is finding something one loves and sticking to it, because there are so many opportunities that one is tempted to constantly change. She stresses the importance of considering the team’s goals, and adds, “The best part of being in a team is that we help each other, we learn and [we do] multi-disciplinary work.”
Jessica was interviewed by Martina Ngose, a student volunteer with the Centre for Global and Community Engagement.