By Brandon Gillet
Ever wondered about the global impact of local community development? International development and globalization student Rebecca Klaassen, 20, is building her career on working with grassroots initiatives both in Ottawa and internationally to empower people at the community level.
Klaassen sees the importance of local development initiatives, recognizing how sustainable change starts with them.
“I went into international development because I could not ignore how much inequality and injustice there is in the world,” says Klaassen. “I wanted to learn more about these issues and how the grassroots level was mobilizing for development.”
Most recently, she spent the winter 2015 session working for the Quartier Vanier BIA as part of her CO-OP placement. During that time she started the #ILoveQV campaign, which connects visitors and residents with merchants to show why they love Quartier Vanier.
“I wanted to immerse myself in one community and learn about all of the different groups and how they work together to improve economic and social development for their area,” Klaassen says.
Here on campus, Klaassen was VP social this past year for the newly formed International Development and Globalization Students Association (DSA). In this position, she planned its first 101 Week as well as subsequent social events throughout the academic year.
“While it was a lot of work, we got to create some amazing events and had an incredible group of 101-ers participate,” she says. “101 Week really kicked off the start of the DSA and the #dvm4life (the group’s hashtag) spirit.”
From her high school days to the present, Klaassen has a long list of volunteer activity, including president of the youth Rotary Club, ongoing work with the City of Ottawa’s Youth Engagement Committee, and efforts with Honduran community development organization Proyecto Alcance, which runs an orphanage, schools and a housing project.
“I love being involved with these organizations because I join things that I am passionate about,” Klaassen says. “On campus, I got involved because I wanted everyone around me to love uOttawa as much as I do.”
Klaassen can definitely see grad studies on the horizon, but first, she wants to take advantage of her youth to work in different areas of the world and gain perspective on diverse development issues, including returning to Honduras for a year to work with Proyecto Alcance.
“I definitely want to work on a community level with local organizations, and am interested in both Canadian development and development abroad,” she says.