Tamara McLellan, Thanks for Doing Some Good!
What first inspired you to volunteer?
I moved around a lot growing up and saw my parents volunteer and get involved in the community everywhere we went. That was likely the first motivator that I recognized at an early age. I also had a life-changing moment when I was 22 years old, at a marketing conference where I saw the philanthopist John Wood (Founder of Room to Read and author of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World) speak. This was my awakening. Only then did I truly grasp the gratitude that I now have for the circumstances I was born into. It was my realization then, that I had to take my place in this world and pay it forward. Since that moment I've traveled around Africa, India and Central America volunteering, while getting very involved in each community I've lived in as well.
Which cause are you most passionate about and why?
I care deeply about gender issues because I believe women hold up half the sky and it's vital to our evolution as a human race that our voices are heard on a fair and equal level. I have spent time in India working with women and adolescent girls, and have also spent time with executives and the elite 1% at board tables in the West, and it's appalling that inequality is still happening at all levels.
I believe wholeheartedly in food security and work with a group of farmers in El Salvador who are fighting oppression just for the right to grow food in a healthy environment.
And I will fight for human rights for everyone - regardless of race, religion, age, gender or sexual orientation, for as long as I'm alive.
Which organization do you most commonly volunteer for?
Right now I split my time between four organizations: IWEN., TEDxKelowna, Otra Fe, and GECCO.
IWEN focuses on assisting women and children obtain education and freedom in Nepal, with a local focus on marginalized women in the Okanagan.
TEDxKelowna is expanding minds and igniting change in Kelowna with local TEDx events.
Otra Fe is a food security project that works with campecinos (peasant farmers) in El Salvador, helping them to secure heritage seed and all the tools necessary to farm their land, as well as education on sustainable methods of farming. Otra Fe is also involved with other projects in the community, including a women's run bakery, a health clinic, and child sponsorship programs.
GECCO is the newest chapter of BCCIC (BC Council for International Cooperation). It stands for Global Empowerment Coalition for the Central Okanagan. We plan on bringing networking and learning opportunities to the local international development community.
What does a typical volunteer shift look like for this organization?
A typical volunteer shift on the ground here in Kelowna for IWEN means working a scarf sale - sitting at a booth selling scarves and sharing the story of our women and girls in Nepal. Some back story: IWEN was involved in the creation of a UNAKO house in Nepal where women could come together in community and for enterprise opportunities. One of our enterprise opportunties is our Nepali women's sewing group. These women create beautiful scarves from material found in Nepal. We in turn take these scarves and sell them in our community and send all profits back through IWEN. We have a booth at most Christmas craft sales and various school and women's events throughout the year.
A typical volunteer shift for TEDx would mean volunteering time to help run the annual event - working with speakers, sponsorships, media, taking tickets at the door, seating people, etc.
What impact have you seen volunteers make in the community?
This last year, our TEDx event Igniting Change was awesome! It was amazing seeing what a small volunteer run committee is capable of putting on. The event had over 300 attendees and sparked conversations of change among many Kelowna residents.
This fall, IWEN will be launching a Women's Walk & Talk group, with topics based around wellness, inclusion, and self-care for immigrant women, in partnership with the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society and Kelowna Community Resources. I'm really excited to see how that goes.
What is the most memorable moment or experience you've had while volunteering?
It could be when we dedicated the Habitat for Humanity homes when I lived in Virden, Manitoba. It might have been when my adolescent girls class in India discussed and did presentations on gender-based violence and abortions, and I learned more from them then they did from me. Or possibly when, at a meeting with peasant farmers in Ahuachapan (a small community in El Salvador) they invited me into the crowd to come sit with them and took me in as their own. I remember working at a soup kitchen in Winnipeg and meeting eyes with some of those that we were serving, seeing silent thank yous as we went down the line. Or having a moment with the crew after TEDxKelowna's 2015 event to let the stresses of the event melt away. I simply can't choose, there are so many! The connection you make with a community by volunteering is always a beautiful thing.
What support does your organization currently need, and how can people learn more or get involved?
We definitely need help with all three local NGOs that I work for:
IWEN would love scarf sale volunteers, along with anyone willing to do administrative data entry or communications work.
GECCO is always looking for members to get involved with our events. Look up BCCIC.ca to understand more about the organization. We will have a facebook page soon!
TEDxKelowna is also looking for volunteers to get involved with our annual event.
Interested volunteers could send me a message to talk about any of the above opportunities.
Is there anyone else you would like to recognize that has helped support you to make a difference?