UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 5 | May
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
“Trek Leaders go over safety issues, shatter stereotypes
and help new volunteers feel comfortable in this environment,”
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
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.