Mariella Santagata

BSc student, Health Sciences

Mariella Santagata


Bsc, Health Sciences

Why did you decide to take HLTH 481?

As I was nearing the end of my degree, I began reflecting on the fact that despite the Waterloo community supporting me over the last five years, I hadn't given back in any way. I moved here in 2018 for my undergraduate studies, and aside from a few part-time jobs, I didn't feel like I was a part of the community.

I had previous courses with Dr. Anthony and admired the way she presented highly relevant issues, so I reached out regarding HLTH 481. This course seemed like an excellent opportunity to get involved, particularly in areas in which I was already passionate towards.

What community partner are you volunteering with, and why?

I volunteered with Going Mobile KW, an organization that supports and aids individuals experiencing homelessness, addiction and inequities. My decision to volunteer with them was out of pure interest in the issues of health inequities, but after my first night out with Going Mobile, I quickly understood the gravity and complexities of the issues they were addressing. I decided to stay volunteering because I didn't feel like I could sit back after I witnessed and understood the circumstances that so many people experience in this community.

What kind of work are you doing within the organization?

Going Mobile KW is a well-oiled machine run by dedicated and hard-working volunteers and collaborators. The team works with St. Mary's Kitchen to make warm meal packages for people living in encampments, motels and on the street.

The Going Mobile team then delivers the packages to anyone and everyone we encounter. The organization has lists of who is in what motel or encampment and their specific needs or other notes. With the help of these lists, we can also drop off clothing or other donations such as snacks, water bottles, juice, toiletries, naloxone kits and more. You name it, and we've dropped it off.

I also worked with some of the organizers to ensure that the lists of people are up-to-date. These lists are crucial; they allow us to support each individual and their distinct needs.

What do you like most about this experience?

To say the least, this was an eye-opening experience. I witnessed the harsh realities of poverty and homelessness, and this deepened my understanding of the injustices in our community. There are many things that textbooks and classes can't teach you, and being on the ground learning from those with lived experience gave me that knowledge.

My Health courses have taught me that many social systems are unjust; however, seeing how those injustices manifest themselves in real time is unparalleled. Now, I look at injustices through a completely different lens than I would have otherwise. I also really appreciated being involved in the community and learning from people who have been involved for a long time. Their shared knowledge is unforgettable, and I can't thank them enough.

How do you think this experience will help you in the future?

The perspectives and knowledge I have learned through working with Going Mobile will stay with me for the rest of my life. Even if my future career may not be in this area, I now have a more in-depth and more accurate understanding of these issues that I couldn't have gained in another way. I have the desire to continue to help and support those facing inequities, and I plan on continuing to help in my community back home.