101 Days, 101 Strangers, 101 Stories: Day 78

This morning, I met up with James for coffee. He was interested in learning more about a leadership training program I was a part of, and I, of course, was interested in learning more about his story.

One of his dreams is to start some kind of social venture. Back when he was in his first year of university (he’s now in his fifth year of business school), he spent some time in Guatemala working with an organization called Operation Groundswell based out of Ontario. He lived in Guatemalan villages and helped build schools while he was there. He sees the most valuable outcome of his time there to have been the learning experience he got out of it. He fell in love with the culture and colours and vibrance, noting that those are things we often lack up here in our corner of the world. He’s thought about starting a social enterprise that would bring the goods of these villagers back to countries like Canada to share in culture and in profits.

James told me about a time when he’d been protesting at an environmental justice rally. He had taken a Bridgette Depape-esque approach and walked into a conference Stephen Harper was attending in Vancouver with a “Stop Harper” sign. He’s glad to have stood up for his beliefs and to have raised awareness about climate change in doing so.

“If the pipeline plans are passed I will go up North and tie myself to a tree”, he said, dead serious. His dedication is admirable.

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James grew up on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia with who he described as his “hippy parents”. A large portion of the population where he grew up was of indigenous ancestry. Many of his friends came from native communities and so he quickly became drawn towards tackling the issues they face so prevalently — including but not limited to those issues which are so deeply interwoven in the environmental movement today.

James’s advice? “Don’t be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone.” Whenever James is interested in an organization or the work that a particular individual is doing, he reaches out and sets up meetings with them. He explained that it takes a little bit of courage to put yourself out there like that, but that it’s what makes a world of difference. It grows you, and you can learn so much from building networks in this way… even if it’s a little bit uncomfortable at first.

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