I woke up last Sunday morning with the realization that in just about one week I’ll be in New Orleans. I signed up for this week-long service project almost five months ago, and it took me until last Sunday morning to realize that this is actually happening. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with expectations, thoughts and the possibilities of what can be, with absolute no certainty of what will be.
Throughout the next couple weeks I hope to share with you my experiences. My name is Gayathri Wewala and I’m a second year student majoring in the Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary. There are two major motivations behind my pursuit of this adventure: volunteerism and food security.
Let’s start with volunteerism for I am a very passionate and dedicated volunteer. It is my driving desire to continually contribute to the community. In my first year I focused on the local community because despite the fact that there is poverty on a larger scale outside of Canada, it takes only one walk to the downtown train station to realize that it is also present in our own backyard. It is moments such as these in which I “witness poverty” that really tugs on my heartstrings to help those in need. To do so, during my first year I volunteered with various homeless shelters including the Drop In Centre, Inn From the Cold and the Mustard Seed. This then drove me to partake in the Homelessness at Home Reading Week program which helped me unlearn personal stereotypes (that I didn’t know I had…) and unveil some core issues that have given rise to homelessness. It is my passion for volunteering that led me to have that experience and it is my passion for volunteering that fuels the way as I expand my horizons beyond the local community. By going to New Orleans I’ll be able to make a contribution to a more global community and learn about core issues like education, race and natural disasters and its influence over poverty.
My second motivation is food security. Since stepping foot on campus almost two years ago, food security is one of those terms that I have heard perhaps a couple hundred tims. And since, food security has expanded from a general definition to a much broader concept. Almost everything I know about food security I learned as being part of the fabulous Meal Exchange team, which is an organization that strives to eradicate hunger and raise awareness about food insecurity. Last summer I had the privilege of attending the National Food Summit (hosted by Meal Exchange) and something that really struck me are the multiple perspectives by which one can view food security. It helped me indentify my personal perspective, which is anti-poverty. I suppose I knew this sub-consciously because I had started working for our Students’ Union Campus Food Bank, a non-profit organization that provides campus community members with emergency food relief. We are scheduled to volunteer with the Second Harvest Food Bank and I can’t say how excited I am to see how they run their services.
And those are the two major reasons that will get me to the airport by 4:00am this coming Monday morning. That and my growing interest in the New Orleans culture… there is just so much to learn!