The Aquinian

STU grad chosen as ambassador for global change campaign

Tara Brinston wants to spread awareness about social justice. She is encouraging people to form better habits like turning out the lights when they leave a room and buying local food. (Tom Bateman/AQ)

Tara Brinston is changing the world one pledge at a time.

The 2006 St. Thomas University graduate is collecting pledges of civic engagement for the month of February.

Brinston was selected to be one of eight global youth ambassadors for the month-long Active-8 campaign, run by the Atlantic Council for International Co-operation.

“It’s a campaign to spread awareness about social justice and international development and to get people to realize that small actions would make a bigger impact here or internationally,” said Brinston.

Those small actions are as simple as choosing to buy local, turning out the lights, or using recyclable grocery bags; and as complex as educating ourselves about the challenges women and girls face in developing countries.

Brinston is no stranger to these challenges. She has backpacked to 10 different countries in Latin America, including Guatemala.

“I worked with a women’s weaving co-operative while I was in Guatemala. Women whose husbands had substantial alcohol abuse issues in the community, they decided they were going to take charge of their community and set up a weaving organization.

“They bring in funding to support their community, support their children. The strength of the people, the women, I thought that was great.”

The theme of this year’s international development week, set for Feb. 5-11, is empowering women and girls.

“When people make the pledge, they’re only pledging for the month of February. It takes 21 days to make or break a habit, and we really just want to get people talking about international development.”

Brinston has been involved in similar projects before. During her years at STU, the psychology and French major fundraised for World Vision, doing projects like the 30-Hour Famine. She has also volunteered with UNICEF and been a vocal advocate for disability rights.

Brinston’s advocacy on behalf of the disabled is a big part of her job. She works as director of programs for the New Brunswick chapter of Community Living, a not-for-profit that works to connect people with intellectual disabilities with their communities in meaningful and fulfilling ways.

She became an advocate for disability rights after working in a group home for nine months after graduation.

“I didn’t like the lack of choice that I saw there, and I kind of got pushed into advocacy. It was a great learning experience, but it didn’t feel right and really fuelled my fire.”

Fiery though her passion for helping people is, Brinston’s outlook on the world is sunny.

“People inherently want to do good things. We’re a unique generation. We’re the generation to make a difference.”

One of the ways Brinston makes a difference in the lives of the people she works with is by asking, “How can I help?” They’re four words which she says have become ingrained in the way she functions.

Students interested in supporting Brinston’s efforts in the campaign can make their pledge at http://bit.ly/yDPezV.

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