Sonya Sangster - Age
A “Gut Feeling” Inspires Commercial Pilot from Tsawwassen to Reach for the United Nations
“I had a gut feeling that out there somewhere, there is a person just like me who is suffering in a situation that they cannot control, a situation they were born into, without choice. I got to thinking that if I were that person, I would want someone fighting for me, someone who was able to, who had the resources, the skills, and the ability. And I knew that in just acting on that gut feeling, I could be all of those things: a voice, a resource, some hope.”
Sonya Sangster, just 26, is a commercial pilot. She also devotes countless volunteer hours as an advocate for Oxfam Canada and the Uganda Rural Fund in the hope of merging her passions for flying and international development by becoming a rescue mission pilot for the United Nations.
What’s most gripping about Sonya’s drive is that she became involved in international development only three years ago, when she acted on a “gut feeling.” Sonya grew up in a middle class and privileged family in Tsawwassen. She has the humility to admit that “all through elementary school and high school, I had zero social conscience.”
While studying business at the University of the Fraser Valley, Sonya took electives in anthropology, which made her aware of some of the inequalities and poverty that exists on a global scale. One day a friend from high school invited her to an Oxfam meeting, and this led to significant changes in Sonya’s life goals. “I just had a gut feeling that there’s a whole world out there of people who need help, and I knew Oxfam helped people. I had no idea how I could get involved, just that I wanted to do something. So I went to the meeting.”
Since that first meeting, Sonya has become the Co-chair of Oxfam’s Advocacy and Outreach Campaign, advocating for climate change and women’s rights. With her twin sister, she co-founded Uganda Rural Fund Canada in 2008, a non-profit organization that offers a range of services to the people of Kyetume, including a school, orphanage, and empowerment programs for women and men. At the same time, Sonya graduated from flight school, and started working as a commercial pilot for Canadian Air Charters. Her next step, is to fly for the UN’s relief missions to the Sudan.
Sonya is a firm believer that most young people have that same gut feeling about fighting the inequalities in our world, but that there’s often a gap between that feeling and taking action and being intimidated. “There are so many issues, and they are difficult issues: poverty, hunger, education. And there are so many people who need help in so many different countries.” But the other obstacle, according to Sonya, is that people underestimate themselves. “I find that it is often our apprehensions about our own abilities and capabilities as individuals that make us not act on our gut feelings.”
By responding to her own aspirations, Sonya has demonstrated just how much one person can achieve in such a short time. As for the future, Sonya’s dreams don’t get any smaller. Once she gets the flying out of her system, Sonya plans to study international human rights law or environmental law and work in international policy. And ultimately, she wants to become the Governor General of Canada!