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UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 5 | May 6, 2004

Giving Back to the Community Motivates Science Grad

Volunteering for humanitarian causes

By April Wilson-Lange

By helping as many people as he can, Chris Zappavigna takes the Dalai Lama’s message of love and compassion to heart.

As UBC’s Student Senator for the Faculty of Science, Zappavigna was part of the academic procession at last month’s honorary degree ceremony for the Dalai Lama, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Iranian human rights activist Shirin Abadi.

“I felt excited and empowered to be there,” he says. “After hearing these people talk, I felt I could do a lot more to help others. These three individuals have donated their lives to causes outside of their own lives.”

Zappavigna wants to study medicine because he feels it’s a profession where he can have a positive influence on people’s lives and the community.

But the integrated science undergraduate has already begun his humanitarian work.

As one of 12 Trek Leaders for UBC’s Trek Program, he helps introduce fellow volunteers to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“Trek Leaders go over safety issues, shatter stereotypes and help new volunteers feel comfortable in this environment,” he explains.

In addition, Zappavigna is a UBC volunteer at the Triage Emergency Shelter, a 28-bed homeless shelter for people with mental illness and substance abuse.

“I want to learn how to relate to different people in different socio-economic groups,” he says. “I hope to do this kind of work throughout my career.”

For the past five years, Zappavigna, who graduates this month with a second science degree, has also volunteered at the Burnaby General Hospital’s geriatric ward and emergency room.

Zappavigna graduated in 2000 with a chemistry degree and then went on to study biochemistry and genetics.

In addition to his local volunteer work, the Vancouver resident spent four weeks in the summer of 2001 building houses for needy families in a suburb of Mexico City. “Volunteerism is important, you have to give back to the community.”

Zappavigna hopes to go to UBC’s School of Medicine in the fall.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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