With less than a month to go before the application deadline for the Gina Gentleman Scholarship, which recognizes the volunteer commitment of Sodexo employees or their immediate family members, Stop Hunger wanted to put the spotlight on Megan Spencer, a former Gina Gentleman Scholarship winner who was generous enough to share her experience with us.
Megan Spencer has been with Sodexo since 2014 and is currently General Manager for Sodexo at Vancouver General Hospital. Last year, she applied for the Gina Gentleman Scholarship to pursue an MBA at Simon Fraser University. Since she was a young girl, Megan has always done volunteer work. She was a member of Scouts Canada for 10 years, she volunteered extensively during her studies and worked as a field editor on an international nutrition research project in Sierra Leone for 2 months.
4 questions for Megan
Through all these experiences, what skills have you been able to develop and what have you learned from them?
For sure, starting in the Scouts at a young age taught me important values such as mutual aid and self-giving. However, my volunteer experience in Sierra Leone was certainly the most significant. I had just finished my studies in nutrition and had spent so much time researching and reading about nutrition issues around the world. I could see the numbers in the papers and it moved me, but there was still a certain distance. When I arrived in Sierra Leone and was confronted with the reality of the people and the poverty, it brought me to a better understanding of the real situation and I wanted to do everything I could to help. It was also an opportunity for me to combine my passion for nutrition with my desire to help and make a difference.
What made you want to volunteer in your community in the first place?
It is something that has been ingrained in me throughout my life. My mother has always been volunteering and it has always been something important in my family to give back to others. Being able to donate to an organization of my choice with the Gina Gentleman Scholarship was also something important to me especially with COVID-19, as food banks were even more in need. However, I am aware that volunteering can be very time consuming and, at times, it was even difficult for me to juggle with all my commitments. This is why I would recommend to anyone who wishes to give back to do a little bit at a time so that your is sustainable.
Participating in an international nutrition research project seems to have been a very significant experience. Why was it important for you to participate in a project that would contribute to the fight against hunger?
Because it is essential to the sustainability of our world. At the time, one of my teachers at the University, whom I highly valued, made me aware of the problems of hunger and poverty in certain countries. She also taught me a lot about the inequality between men and women in terms of access to resources. Among other things, it is usually the men who will receive the money distributed by international cooperation agencies, even though it has been proven that the money would be better reinvested if it were distributed to women. I truly believe in the importance of empowering and supporting the next generations and I also believe that empowering women is the best way to do it. It's a bit of a combination of all this that led me to work on this research project that aimed to increase the quality of nutrition for infants.
Why would you encourage Sodexo employees to apply for the Gina Gentleman Scholarship?
The application process is so simple, and the scholarship is very generous because in addition to receiving a tuition, we are given the opportunity to give back to the organization of our choice. I think it feels good because we do not always have the time or money to give back as we would like. The scholarship gives us this ability to follow our values. So, apply, give it a chance, you never know!
It is still possible for all Sodexo employees and their family members to apply to the Gina Gentleman Scholarship until April 1, 2021. Recipients will receive a $2,500 scholarship in tuition and related expenses at a recognized post-secondary educational institution. In addition, the Stop Hunger Foundation will donate up to $1,000 to a local charity of the recipient's choice.
The scholarships honor the memory of Gina Gentleman, a Sodexo employee with 41 years of service who volunteered and inspired others to feed children in need.
For more information, visit the official Gina Gentleman Scholarship page.