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Maria Veras

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

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Painted sign of the sun and blue skies that says "Burnaby"
It might only be in a small way, but the butterfly effect of that and the ripples that small changes can make are truly amazing when you think about it.

I have always wanted to work at a non-profit organization. While my main objective during my first Co-op term was to gain experience in the Communication field, that goal to work at a non-profit had always remained in the back of my mind. And say what you want about the law of attraction, but sometimes it does have a way of revealing itself to you.

Prior to working at Burnaby Community Services, my background was in sales, a rather capitalist driven line of work that always didn’t sit quite right with me. Personally, I always wanted to participate in work that made a difference. That came from seeing my mother make a difference in the lives of her patients as an Occupational Therapist. As I developed my interests, I discovered they were reading, writing, and public speaking. But above all, what I valued was human connection and a sense of community. That’s where my desire to work at a non-profit started.

I worked as a Publications Assistant, which meant that I oversaw and updated most of the publications that Burnaby Community Services produced. The research for the publications was probably the hardest part, as I made over a 100 calls in total and sent almost as many emails in order to gather and confer the right information for the Community Resource Guide, our main publication due to be out this month. After creating the first draft, I read through it at least 10 times as well, and you would be amazed at the little mistakes you catch every time. The pressure of something going to print means you must absolutely hone in on your proofing skills, which I thankfully will now be able to transfer over to my schoolwork and future profession. I also helped select the cover photos for the Community Resource Guide and worked with Adobe InDesign to create the cover.

Perhaps the best part of working at a non-profit is being shook out of your little bubble. My main job working on the Community Resource Guide meant discovering and researching all the resources available in the Burnaby community. It was eye opening to see just how many different resources are available to help the diverse community of Burnaby. 

The part of the job that I love the most has been knowing that with every phone call I make to verify programs and with every food bank I research, the end of this process and final product will go to help someone. It might only be in a small way, but the butterfly effect of that and the ripples that small changes can make are truly amazing when you think about it. When most people think of helping the world, they look far away to places who are in truly dire conditions. I know I did when I first thought about working at a non-profit. But sometimes in doing so, you forget all the good that can be done right here, right in your very own neighborhood. And within that, how often human connection and empathy can be underestimated in society.

It can make you uncomfortable at times, knowing the economic inequality that makes up our society. That is a particular part of non-profit work that I will warn about. Don’t go into it if you’re not comfortable with looking at the stark realities of the world. At Burnaby Community Services, there are particular families that have been a part of programs, such as the Christmas Bureau or Recreation Credit, for years. However, that is not what defines them. As my supervisor always said to me, “They are families with low income, not low-income families. It is not what defines them."

And I will say this, the non-profit sector can be a highly challenging field. Juggling the land mines of limited funding, limited staff, and an array of job duties can be a hard time for some. You must always be ready to lend a hand to a co-worker, help a client, or think of a creative solution to a present problem. Within that, you must also remember to make sure that your own tasks are done well and are not rushed. That focus intermixed with flexibility was perhaps the most challenging aspect of my job.

It’s also been an incredibly full and diverse learning experience for me. It’s an ever-changing and evolving field to reflect the ever-changing and evolving world it’s directing its services to. But to me, that’s the beauty of the job.

About the Author

Maria Veras

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

Posts by Author

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Blog
Did your Co-op Term Confirm your Career Path? It’s Okay If It Didn’t.

If you are anything like me, one reason that you might have applied for Co-op was because of the many success stories that you've read and heard about. While these stories can be so inspiring and motivating, I have realized that it’s also important to remember that it’s okay to come out of a Co-op term still unsure of what you may want to do. Continue reading to learn about what I learned after my first Co-op work term.

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Blog
Business Development & Sales World for Dummies (and Communication Students)

As a Communication major, I’m comfortable with hearing “the medium is the message”, getting lost in 15-page essays, and wondering why a picture of a pipe is in fact, not a pipe (shoutout CMNS 110). Throw me in a tech start-up in a (remote) business development position and well, I’m a touch out of my comfort zone. Keep reading to learn about my experience working in a business role as a Communication major. 

Open laptop, pen, and clipboard on a table. Paper on clipboard reads "my resume".
Blog
Imposter Syndrome and Finding My Confidence With Co-op

Michael joined SFU’s Co-op program during his first year and quickly realized one thing as he began the job search process: projecting confidence and composure are key to showing your best points and skills. Continue reading to learn more about how Michael dealt with imposter syndrome and found his confidence with Co-op. 

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A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

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Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.

 

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Responsibility and Success

One of the most memorable parts of my time in co-op was the collection of accidents, errors, mistakes, and mix-ups that happened in the course of working in the laboratory.

 

Painted sign of the sun and blue skies that says "Burnaby"
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Blog
What Is It Really Like Working For a Non-Profit?
Co-op Reflections, Communication, Community, Professional Development, Personal Development

I have always wanted to work at a non-profit organization. While my main objective during my first Co-op term was to gain experience in the Communication field, that goal to work at a non-profit had always remained in the back of my mind. Keep reading to learn more about my experience working for a non-profit. 

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A Co-op Survival Guide: How I Managed to Work on Two Teams at a Major Health Authority

When Melissa was brought onboard as a Co-op student at Fraser Health, she learned that she'd have the opportunity to work for not one but two different teams within her portfolio. Though a little scary at first, she embraced the challenge dove in. Read on to see what she learned during her Co-op experience.

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Paving the Way for Community Engagement

Engaging with our communities provides opportunities to connect, grow, and give back. Jasleen shares how her co-op with the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue lived up to SFU's reputation as Canada's most engaged university. 

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SFU Co-op Secures International Roles for BBA Duo

Two Beedie undergraduate students, Luming Zhao and Xiwen Zheng, successfully secured full-time roles at the prestigious PwC Shanghai office after completing their co-op work terms there. Read to learn more about their experience, how they did it, and how you can too! This article was previously published in SFU News on June 8, 2015.