I was 10-years-old the first time I met a homeless person. Hand held out, he asked for change, saying he was hungry. As my mother searched in her purse, I offered him an uneaten sandwich from my backpack. Grateful, he accepted and thanked me for my kindness. He was cold, but his smile was warm. That was the moment I realized how even a small effort can make a big difference. Every week thereafter, I have continued to make and deliver sandwiches to the local shelters—the immediacy of its impact fuelling my commitment.
In 2017, I became determined to denormalize homelessness and build a framework wherein such a simple act of kindness could be amplified to help those in need. I founded "A Sandwich or Two” and began leading school and community sandwich-making events, each providing 100-1000 sandwiches for the Ottawa shelters. In 2019, I expanded my initiative into schools and communities across Canada with “The National Sandwich Making Initiative''. Schoolchildren, at-risk youth, autistic adults, and dementia circles are amongst the varied groups that have engaged in the events. This diversity in age, privilege, cultural background and physical capacity beautifully illustrates the tenet that regardless of circumstance, everyone can make a difference. What started with one sandwich has multiplied into an offering of over 40,000 over the last four years.
Then came the pandemic. From the storm of statistics on the losses of life and livelihood, to all of us being forced apart and forced to accept a new normal—it was hard and often overwhelming. Yet, amidst this, I found the inspiration to turn my privilege into purpose and redirect the helplessness I was feeling into helping others.
In the Spring of 2020, I launched the “Wishing Well Project”—an endeavor that promotes active citizenship by affording youth-led community initiatives the supportive building blocks required to get started. Since its inception, the Wishing Well has collaborated with a spectrum of donors to seed 18 projects spanning an array of causes and has helped mobilize over 700 youth across Canada to causes greater than themselves. Both the Wishing Well and the sandwich-making initiatives have been fortuitously impactful with the surge in need ensuing the pandemic and have reciprocally allowed people to channel their senses of helplessness into tangible acts that help their communities.
The pandemic cast an even darker shadow over the world by shining a light on its inequities. Impelled by the injustices, I spent much of the last 18 months trying to bridge some of the divides. With a service grant, I founded “The Colours of the World Project”, an elementary-school art campaign that celebrates diversity and inclusivity. In collaboration with the “Alliance to End Homelessness” and the major city shelters, I created the framework for the “Ottawa Giving Project”, a centralized online donation registry that harmonizes the immediate needs of Ottawa’s various shelters.
Inspirited with a vision for more equitable food systems, I geared my academic curiosity towards addressing the fragilities of food security: I assumed graduated leadership roles with several cellular agriculture non-profits, co-authored two federal regulatory papers, and designed a CWSF-gold-winning bioinformatics pipeline that identified the target genes involved in the cellular agriculture bioprocess. In July 2021, I was appointed Executive Director of Cellular Agriculture Canada where I am working to ensure that the national non-profit is defined by a more inclusive vision that engages the spectrum of Canadian community perspectives.
Above all else, my leadership experiences have taught two things: working collectively towards a common goal generates an impact far greater than working alone, and meaningful change starts with recognizing a problem and wanting to be part of the solution.