National Volunteer Week: Celebrating the Power of Together

Sunday, April 24, 2022

National Volunteer Week 2022

April 24-30, 2022 is National Volunteer Week, a week-long celebration where we recognize the many meaningful contributions our volunteers make throughout the year and thank them for their engagement and support of University of Waterloo and Faculty of Environment initiatives. 

This year, the Faculty of Environment's chosen theme for National Volunteer Week is "celebrating the power of together". Below and on our social media accounts, you will find mini profiles on a handful of student, faculty, staff, and alumni volunteers. We hope you enjoy getting to know some of these incredible community members and are inspired to find your own avenue to give back. 

Mariam Gill, BES ’15, ERS

Mariam GillFor Mariam Gill, School of Environment, Resources, and Sustainability (ERS) alumnus, volunteering, starting as a student senator at the Faculty of Environment, has been an outlet for meeting new people who energize and inspire her. Volunteering, in her words, is “all about people and community” and it’s an exciting space to learn a new skill and learn about yourself outside of work. Over the years of providing mentorship to others, on platforms such as Ten Thousand Coffees, Mariam has learned a lot. Whether it has been optimizing her introverted personality type or learning to respect her boundaries, Mariam continues to make time to show up for others. Words of the wise, Mariam encourages us that ",if there’s any piece of anyone that really wants to volunteer but doesn’t know where to start, just start by showing up, and whatever you bring to the table is good enough.”

Connect with Mariam on LinkedIn and Ten Thousand Coffees.

Nat Bergbusch, PhD, SERS

Nat BergbuschNat Bergbusch is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Environment’s School of Environment, Resources, and Sustainability (SERS) whose research examines how to make impact assessments more inclusive of regional communities and regional eco-systems. His research alone is very much centered around making a positive difference and that theme carries into how he chooses to give back his time. For Nat, the desire to volunteer started by wanting to be of service to others. Nat currently serves his peers as President of the Environment Graduate Student Association (EGSA). What allows him to continue to give his time without burning out, is his choice to “,start with your passion and let that drive you, find those pathways where you can best put your energy to use, [and] don’t feel bad finding another avenue for your service.” An important lesson Nat shares, that we can all bring into our roles at work and in volunteering is that being of service is as much of an act of giving, as it is of receiving. Whether it’s joy, inspiration, or a new perspective, volunteering can be an extremely useful tool for learning about yourself and defining the kind of person you want to be. An incredible addition to the Environment community, Nat's volunteering continues to be fuelled by the joy and inspiration he gets from the people he serves and works alongside.

Connect with Nat via LinkedIn.


Nashmia Aamir, BES, INDEV, 2022

Nashmia AamirAlthough you might not expect it, International Development undergraduate student Nashmia was not always the outgoing, and well-spoken person she is today. In high school, she preferred to stay behind the scenes, volunteering for marketing and event coordination initiatives. When she started at UWaterloo as an international student from Saudi Arabia, her friends and residence Don encouraged her to put herself out there. By taking on a variety of student leadership volunteer roles for orientation, Environment Student Society (ESS), amongst others, Nashmia has a newfound sense of confidence and appreciation for people. “I used to be the kind of person that would think ‘people suck’, but through volunteering, I learned that I love people”. By giving her time to team efforts at the faculty, Nashmia met like-minded people with different skills and passions, who together as, “humans, come together and create this environment”. At the end of the day, Nashmia, like many of our volunteers is driven by the satisfaction of making a difference, “when you volunteer you see that other people enjoy and gain from [what you have done]... we can create an inclusive space and make people happy”.

Connect with Nashmia on LinkedIn.

Juli-Ann Perkins, Faculty Services Manager & Executive Assistant & Jaime Fohkens, Exchange Coordinator

Juli-Ann Perkins

Juli-Ann and Jaime work together at the Faculty of Environment's Dean's Office and are fellow Green Office Champion volunteers. 

Juli-Ann, has taken on many different volunteer roles in the past, as a Business Development Generalist for Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR), Faculty Green office Champion, and as a money management workshop facilitator at the Grand Valley Institution for Women. In particular, her time working with the women at Grand Valley was a very humbling experience. Coming from a strong family and a background in finance, Juli-Ann wanted to express her gratitude for the blessings in her life, by using her skills to be there for women who in her words “are not so different from you and me”. Respect for those we have the privilege of serving and deep gratitude to be in the position to help others are the main pillars that uphold Juli-Ann’s ethos of volunteering. “It is important that when you volunteer, to understand what you are signing up for, so you can make an informed decision to be there for whoever is counting on you.”

For Jaime, volunteering has been a method of getting to know people in the community. Whether it has been helping at children’s groups,Jaime Fohkens corn fests, or pancake breakfasts, Jaime notes that it is “,amazing how quickly you get to know people when you get involved.”  Furthermore, the traditions that often make a community unique, are things that require volunteer support to carry on. Jaime loves getting to know people and their stories and one of her favorite parts about volunteering is seeing the incredible impact that many individuals have when they come together, each bringing their own skills and interests. “You never know what people can teach you […] and you never know what a little five-year-old will come up with or just the way they look at things.” 

Final words of advice from Juli-Ann and Jaime on volunteering? True to her go-getter spirit, Jaime advises to “just say yes but know when to say no” to volunteer opportunities while Juli-Ann reminds us that volunteering is all about working together− “,you don’t need to go it alone, ask for help.”

Connect with Juli-Ann and Jaime on LinkedIn. 

Steffanie Scott, Professor, GEM

Steffanie Scott has been a professor with the Faculty of Environment since 2003, drawing of Steffanie Scottteaching and researching food systems out of the Department of Geography and Environmental Management (GEM), with a cross-appointment in the School of Environment, Resources & Sustainability (SERS). Steffanie is a highly engaged community member, taking on a host of roles as a board member of the Food System Roundtable of Waterloo Region, an advisory committee member of Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) Fertile Ground Farm, and so on. "I do not think about what I do as volunteering, but rather as working towards social and ecological change in society," says Steffanie ",I feel that I get as much as I give as an academic and an instructor. Also I have learned so much about the community and the champions in our food system.” So much of what Steffanie does with her teaching is about encouraging a community-centered approach to research. Through her investments in the community, she has become an “information broker” who has a pulse on “,what’s going on, what are people concerned about, and how [she] can be proactive and how [she] can encourage others to get involved.” Steffanie reflected that oftentimes people can feel a lot of anxiety, depression, or isolation about the state of the world and its future but like with the community garden network she is connected with − by focusing on small positive actions in our own circles, we can plant seeds of hope. Often the first place people look to give their time is through a formal role at a larger non-profit. However, as Steffanie suggests, your path to giving back can be as simple as checking in with people in your community, seeing a need, and coming together to be a part of the solution. In her neighborhood, the Mary Allen Trading Post Facebook group does just that, by creating a space where people can seek and lend items they need. Volunteering can take many shapes and forms, and for Steffanie, it has been a beautiful opportunity to become more spiritually grounded while exploring her connection to the land and her community.

Connect with Steffanie on LinkedIn.  

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