Growing up, Jen spent more time on theatre and dance than on politics or activism, but the roots of her passion for health justice trace back to her childhood. Jen’s father worked as a doctor in Vancouver’s queer village at the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and his stories of the systemic discrimination HIV-positive individuals faced left a strong impression on Jen.
After graduating from High School, Jen spent several months in Zambia volunteering at a community school. While there, she saw first-hand how well-intentioned and well-resourced programs can fail when designed by outsiders who don’t properly understand community needs.
Jen then went to UBC where she studied International Relations and got involved with the climate movement, notably choreographing a massive climate flashmob at PowerShift in 2009. She appreciated the youth-led, community-driven culture of the climate movement, a stark contrast to the more hierarchically-organized model she’d encountered in the international aid work, but continued to feel drawn to international health work.
Jen currently works as Network Relations Coordinator for Leadnow, as a research assistant for a study on health and legal needs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and as a preschool music teacher. In the future, she hopes to continue combine community-driven culture she experienced in climate campaigns with her passion for international health in a way that means health solutions for communities come from those communities. Jen continues to feel drawn towards international health work, but hopes to integrate aspects of community empowerment by learning how to engage communities in making change for themselves.