Volunteer Profile: Eric Schwartz
Interview by Grace Hann
“Even if you just change one life, you’ve changed the world forever.” – Mike Satterfield
Feeling the crackling snow beneath my feet as I cross country skied across a frozen lake and snowshoeing through the forests of the Northern Laurentians was the ultimate nature experience! Observing nature as the porcupines hobbled in the trees looking curious as I skied by! What could be better! With summers spent swimming and paddling those same lakes, growing up in Montreal provided great nature landscapes with the Mountains close by!
Attending a Jewish Day school provided me with a deeper understanding of the language and history of the Jewish people. A summer trip to Israel and activities in Habonim Youth ignited my connection with Israel and led me to spend a year after high-school living on a Kibbutz in the Arava Desert. There, I developed my connection to this new and harsh landscape. It seemed a perfect fit for me to study the Environment when I returned and ultimately pursued studies at the University of Waterloo. During a semester at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheba I understood this was where I would pursue my dreams. On finishing my degree, a year in Toronto earned my passage and shipping, and I was off with my bike to ride through Yugoslavia and Greece on my way to my new life Israel.
I lived in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Netanya, initially working for the New Ministry of Environment developing computer mapping systems, which I continued as an IT Consultant, married and settled into a comfortable life. Life never stands still! After 14 years, it was again time for a change, and we packed up and came to Canada. Vancouver was the city which captured my heart and was a perfect fit for me. The great outdoors was a magnet and I could Kayak any day!
I researched volunteering opportunities and got in touch with JSA and did their training. It was here that I prepared myself for tackling the human element which was so different from the technical work I had preferred. JSA gave me confidence and strength to explore a part of me that was outside of my comfort zone. Through the training, I was able to gain the tools necessary to help my aging parents.
These days, I continue to Kayak and enjoy nature and I continue to be active in environmental and conservation work. Yoga and renovation work allow me to enjoy my body in new ways. While I continue my IT and PM consulting, I am also spending more time helping people and doing more outreach. I’ve coordinated Vancouver Homeless Counts and just recently took great joy in bringing election polls to the City’s homeless shelters and Drop In centers. What a thrill to be empowering disadvantaged young people to vote for the first time! My map will continue to be drawn!