THE BLOG

Turning Tragedy Into Inspiration

07/24/2013 11:34 EDT | Updated 09/23/2013 05:12 EDT

There is a saying out there that goes, "Everything happens for a reason." There are some things in life that this statement can apply to, but sometimes things that happen that seem senseless.

April 2, 2008 will forever be a date instilled in my mind. Jesse, my high school sweetheart, was riding his bike home like he did every day.

At approximately 9 p.m., an impaired driver switched lanes, leaving the road where he hit Jesse, killing him instantly.

Now, try and tell me that this happened for a reason, that there is some grand plan that could only be fulfilled by Jesse being killed. I struggle with this. Although, I do believe that because of this loss, my life has lined up and the experiences have helped shaped who I am today.

After losing Jesse, I started to work alongside Mothers' Against Drunk Driving, speaking in schools about my loss and the consequences of driving under the influence. This allowed me to gain invaluable presentation skills over the past 4 years, help coordinate events and accomplish larger projects, like Campaign 911 signage throughout the city of Hamilton.

Through loss, I became passionate about a cause and used my gifts and talents to create awareness. I was able to strengthen my abilities and leadership skills.

Jesse's death taught me how precious life is, and the importance of making every moment count. I learned that I want devote my life, and what I do for a living, to making a positive impact in the world around me.

Since the age of 15, I have traveled to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti (twice) to help with relief efforts. Each time I travelled, my heart fell more and more in love. I loved the people, the culture and the scenery. Although they have little and we may have a lot in our society, I saw that although they may not have expensive and material things, that really, they had much more. They weren't selfish and didn't only worry about themselves. They shared, loved, laughed, had faith in something bigger than themselves and they knew that in order to make it through the day, they needed each other. The people and children inspired me so much. They are stronger than anyone I know. They have seen things and lost people in ways we could only even begin to imagine - and yet, they have hope. You see it in their eyes when they light up, and the smile on their face with you give them a high five or toss them a ball. There is no language barrier with love. I saw the poverty and it was overwhelming. My heart broke for them.

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After college I started looking for positions and realize that it was very difficult to get into the Aid/International Development field. A [paid] internship position became available at World Vision in their new Youth and Student Engagement team - working with youth, speaking to school and church groups, and helping to market Canada's largest youth fundraiser, 30 Hour Famine. What a perfect fit. I had a lot of experience presenting to large groups as I had done many presentation with MADD. I had experience in fundraising as well from my volunteer work. Looking back, it is funny how it all ties in.

I have been a part of the World Vision Youth and Student Engagement team since December of 2012. At the age of 24, I am working alongside one of Canada's largest NGOs, working on some of their largest campaigns like the No Child for Sale initiative (you can find out more about this at nochildforsale.ca) and I am being challenged every day! I have spoken to 1000s of students about poverty and my experience in the field, built major relationships with students and teachers, created and implemented a summer campaign as well as came alongside their larger campaigns across Canada. Although, the pay may be minimal, the experience, learning's, growth, and portfolio building, is invaluable.

Life is full of twists and turns; some good, some not so good. I don't believe that Jesse's death happened for a reason -- but I do believe that my loss allowed me to strengthen my abilities and taught me that life is too short and to find what you are passionate about and run with it. Don't settle for anything less.