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I was raised in a family of health practioners: my mom is a physio and acupuncturist, my dad is a child psychologist, and among my aunts, uncles and cousins are mental health counselors, nurses and reiki practitioners. Not surprisingly, I developed an early fascination and appreciation for the wonders of the human body.

My career path led inevitably to medicine, and thirteen years ago I was happily toiling through the pre-med track at the University of British Columbia. But one afternoon, en route to organic chemistry class, I saw a poster in the student centre that put a curve in my career path. “Semester in Kenya,” it read, and being 20, I leapt out of my comfort zone into the African savannah, studying sustainable development in a traveling field school. My eyes were opened to the inequities, excesses and ecological fragility of our world. I was humbled, but I was also empowered to do something about it.

I returned home with a plan to waste less water, produce less waste, and make more socially conscious consumer decisions. And I also decided, with a classmate I met in Kenya, to ride our bicycles 8,600 km across Canada. We recruited thirty friends and strangers to bike along with us and perform a play we had written to high schools across the country on how our daily choices affect the world around us. We called our project “Otesha,” “reason to dream” in Swahili. We thought that reaching Newfoundland would be our final destination and that we would then return to our original career plans.

We were wrong about that one… Otesha had momentum, and over the next 14 years we grew Otesha from a grassroots idea into a national, youth-led charitable organization that used experiential learning, theater and bicycle tours to engage and empower Canadians of all ages to take action for a more equitable and sustainable world. When Otesha closed its doors in 2015, we had collectively run 39 cycling and performing tours throughout Canada, with over 500 tour participants, reaching more than 160,000 audience members along the way, and even expanded into the UK, Australia and the Philippines.

Thousands of Otesha participants, staff and volunteers had transformative experience in the programs that spurred these change-makers on to bigger and better things after their time with Otesha. These young people went on to share their skills and passions with other non-profits, create their own bike collectives and organic farms, bring a sustainability lens into careers as teachers, lawyers and doctors, work through political and government avenues to effect systemic change, and raise their own children as aware global citizens.

The years I spent with The Otesha Project continually reinforced the link between our actions, our environment and our health, and led me back to medicine. Whether speaking to rural high-school students, municipal leaders or World Bank executives, I was continuously reminded that human health and the environment are fundamentally connected and interdependent. Both the struggle to be healthy and the struggle for environmental and social justice require addressing root causes and implementing holistic solutions. Both require building capacity for long-term, sustainable well-being. Both require an emphasis on prevention, education, and reducing the amount of harm we cause.

When I became pregnant and struggled with challenges during my pregnancy and birth, the marriage of my passions for a healthier planet and for healthier people became clearly evident. Thus began my career shift and graduate studies to become a licensed Naturopathic Physician, and the founding of Terra Life.


80 Women to Watch – Chatelaine Magazine

Cambio Scholarship – Environment Canada – for youth projects on climate change, awarded at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

Youth Action Net Award – International Youth Foundation – for youth leaders who promote social change and connect youth with local communites

Honourable Mention, Me To We Award – Canadian Living Magazine – outstanding Canadians making contributions to their communities

Arbour Youth Environmental Award – Peace and Environment Resource Centre – recognizing the positive endeavours of youth keeping their community green

CBC Make Some Noise (episode profile) – documentary series profiling stories of young people fighting for the good of this planet and it’s 6 billion tenants.

Our Time is Now: Young People Changing The World (chapter profile and US book tour speaker) – book by Sheila Kinkade, profiling stories of more than thirty young people in over twenty countries who are taking action to contribute to their local and global communities

EECOM Outstanding Non-Profit Award – Environment Education and Communication (Otesha)

Silver, Sustainable Living, Canadian Environment Awards – Canadian Geographic (Otesha)

Tooker Gomberg Award – Ecology Action Centre (Nova Scotia) (Otesha): person or event that most creatively and brilliantly ‘made the news’ in the past year