NCVA experience inspires and motivates teenaged volunteer

Guest blogger Shannon O’Brien-Leblanc volunteered with the NCVA for the first time at the Eco Fair on Saturday.  She wanted to share her experience, so here it is!


As a relatively new member of the National Capital Vegetarian Association (NCVA), I was honoured when I was invited to volunteer to represent the NCVA at the Ottawa Eco Fair. The prospect of having the opportunity to represent the most well-known Vegetarian association in the greater Ottawa area seemed unreal, and exciting.

You see, I am 16-years-old, and live in a very rural community about an hour east of Ottawa.  I can pretty much say my sister Erika, my mom Kelli and I are the only vegans out here, and at times it can be isolating. That the President of the NCVA, Josh Flower, would be training us (my sister and I), would prove to be an experience I will never forget.

Shannon (in red) pictured with sister Erika (in purple), NCVA president Josh Flower (far left), and volunteers Kim and Lennox.

On Sept. 17 I walked into the Carleton University fieldhouse, where the Eco Fair was being held, not knowing what to expect. This was my first Eco Fair, despite being vegan for nearly five years and vegetarian before that, and to be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to do.

We had some extra time before our shift started so we gazed around at the other vendors and see what they had to offer. After exploring what the Eco Fair had to offer, I felt highly motivated and ready to start volunteering.

When I got to the NCVA booth, I was met by Josh Flower, the president of the NCVA. He greeted us with a warm smile and welcoming charm. This made me feel very welcomed and appreciated. He said that we could observe for a while to see what goes on. We had never done this type of volunteering before, so we wanted to watch to see how it was done by those who had plenty of prior experience. After a while, we joined in with the other volunteers.

As the day went on, we handed out brochures, educated people about veganism and of course distributed delicious free cookies that were baked by volunteers.  I was getting involved and speading awareness about veganism, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do. The only thing stopping me from doing so before was the fact that I had no support. But thanks to the NCVA’s support, I now feel inspired to spread awareness about veganism to everybody I know.

In addition, I was asked to play a role in developing an up and coming Youth program for the NCVA, intended to educate youth about the benefits of veganism, and offer support to those wanting to move towards a plant-based diet.  The idea is that as a teenager, I’m someone who (aspiring) vegetarian/vegan  youth can relate to. I would be honoured to do so.

By the end of the day, I was delighted by the new responsibilities I had taken on, and with my overall experience as a NCVA volunteer. I look forward to volunteering again and I look forward to my future role within the NCVA. I no longer feel like “we are the only ones,” and I am truly inspired.

Next on my check list, trying to initiate a Veg Club in our very “meat loving” High School (Rockland District). It may only be my sister Erika and I at the beginning, but we are hoping that we can change that. Afterall, if Texas can do it, I think we can too!


Shannon and Erika’s mother, Kelli, operates the Westminster Pet Sanctuary,  a registered charity which specializes in special needs animals. Because she is vegan, she refuses to hold fundraising BBQs or events that harm animals. For more information, or to make a donation, please visit the website.