On her first day of classes at a new school in a new country, 14-year-old Bianca Velasco was asked what she wanted for lunch.
That one simple question opened the door to success at school, and a relationship with Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids that continues today. “I was so surprised and happy to know that I wouldn’t be hungry that day,” says Bianca, now 19.
St. Monica, Bianca’s school back then, serves a high percentage of newcomers to Canada, and many students whose families don’t have the resources to provide them with lunch.
Those kids, including Bianca, would have gone hungry if not for the generosity of donors and volunteers. Bianca had just arrived in Canada from the Philippines with her parents, entering Grade 8 partway through the year.
“There were lots of kids who received lunches from Brown Bagging. They really, really liked it. I don’t think there was ever any kind of embarrassment about it,” she says.
At the beginning of her Grade 9 year, Bianca began to understand where the lunches came from. Working in the school’s concession, she saw the bins full of meals being delivered and distributed.
“I didn’t have the slightest clue how they made all those sandwiches,” she says. But it wasn’t long before she found out exactly how. At age 16, she decided on her own to travel downtown in the early morning hours to volunteer in the BB4CK kitchen.
“It was like an assembly line, very organized. I didn’t realize how many sandwiches they actually make, within really tight time constraints. I was the youngest person there, and it was good to see older people volunteering their time to make sure kids get lunch.”
The meaning and impact of what she saw were not lost on the teenager.
“I was at a critical point in my life where I was developing as a person, and volunteering there really helped put things into perspective. You never know how good it feels to give back until you do it.”
Bianca’s journey has been a successful one, from arriving at school without lunch to becoming valedictorian of her high school’s graduating class. She is now pursuing a combined degree in international relations and international business at the University of Calgary.
“I’m a big dreamer. I would like to travel, so my goal is to become a diplomat, or to go to law school.”
The small individual actions that helped bring a healthy lunch to a hungry 14-year-old have created lasting impact for Bianca — and that’s what BB4CK is all about.
“Awareness is such a big factor, but you have to act on it as well. It’s not just making sandwiches, it’s making Calgary a better place,” she says.
“I will definitely stay involved, in any way I can.”
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