This summer, we’re challenging Canadians from coast to coast to get active and Just Move to end slavery. During July and August, we’ll follow justice seekers and share their stories as they run, walk, hike and bike to raise money for freedom.
In this interview, IJM Canada campus chapter leaders Tamara Yang and Katrina Besler share their dream of empowering their generation to change the world.
Tell us a bit about yourselves!
Tamara: My name is Tamara Yang! I was born and raised in Vancouver. In 2015, I started university in Montreal so since then I’ve split time between the west and east coasts. I study Political Science and International Development Studies. Just over a year ago, I started IJM at McGill University - our first ever campus chapter at McGill! It’s been really fun and I’m excited for our
Katrina: Hey, I’m Katrina. Also born and raised in Vancouver, and I just graduated from Simon Fraser University, with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry! A few friends of mine started the IJM chapter at SFU when I was in my second year, and I jumped on board then continued after they left. So I’ve been on the exec team for 4 years :)
For those who don’t know, what is an IJM Canada campus chapter?
T: A campus chapter is a club or organization on university campuses that seek to engage students with what IJM does. Chapters typically put on fundraisers, awareness campaigns, and other events to build connections and community around the call to justice.
Above: IJM at McGill Campus Chapter
How are you participating in this summer’s Just Move?
T: Since I’m back in Vancouver for the summer, I think it won’t be too difficult to participate! My friends and I are hoping to hike a new trail every week, and if not, we love biking along Vancouver’s seawall.
K: Vancouver is awesome for that! I also have a goal to do some hiking this summer with friends - we’re planning a Chief trip, so I’m working up to that. I even bought hiking shoes!
What initially inspired your passion for justice?
T: I think a common question for young Christians to ask their Sunday School teachers is "Why does God let bad things happen?” Why are there famines, floods, and violence? Not just in other countries, but at home as well. It’s a tough question to answer, but the one I was most often given was because this world is the way it is, and God’s justice will come in its time. That wasn’t good enough for me. As I grew up, it was clear to me that we have roles to play in seeking justice in this lifetime as well. I became involved with a number of organizations, from poverty alleviation to gender equality in our government. IJM is the most special to me, and to my family. My sister is actually a legal fellow with IJM!
K: My journey’s somewhat similar: I grew up in church and heard a lot about organizations like IJM doing great stuff around the world. When I had the opportunity to get involved with IJM, my response was "why not?”
If I have the ability to help, then how can I not help? My heart hurts when I look at injustice, and I believe it’s part of our mission as Christians to get involved in the reconciliation and justice that Christ brings; sometimes I don’t know how I’m going to be able to complete the projects I set out to do with IJM, but God always steps in, and teaches me a lot in the process.
Why do you think it is important for your generation to get involved in creating change, and more specifically in addressing issues of injustice?
T: I think this past year especially has shown that our generation isn’t afraid of speaking out and creating change. Without getting into politics (even though this is what I study so I love talking about it), I don’t think anybody doubts that young people can create movements beyond moments. We carry a different point-of-view, different experiences, and perhaps we can include more people in how justice is carried out. I hope that remains true!
K: I think our generation is awesome in terms of noticing injustice and the need for change, but sometimes we fall short when it comes to action. I love the opportunity we have as campus chapters to kind of catch young people before they head into the workforce and start gaining more influence, whether that’s in politics or law enforcement or health or whatever area, and stir up a passion for positive change. The best way we can set up for a lifetime of making a difference is by taking action right now! Students are open to new perspectives and ideas as well, which is conducive to change.
What is one tip you would give other students who are looking to make a difference?
T: I have two! First, to not be afraid to ask questions and for support. I think my email is full of messages to and from IJM Canada staff who help me out with details and to bounce ideas off of. They have been in the work of justice for a long time, and are a great support system to have because being a student is tough. This leads into my second point, which is to self-care. University students have this tendency to jump into fifty projects at once because we are so excitable about everything! But in order to help others, I think you need to take care of yourself as well. Sometimes you just need to pop a face mask on. Watch some Netflix.
K: I would say, there’s a million opportunities out there to take action. It really just takes looking and asking around. My advice would be to pick a good one and pour yourself into it… don’t spread too thin, because you don’t get anything done that way. And also, don’t be ashamed to talk about it!! Word of mouth is one of the best ways to spread awareness and get more people involved.
What is your greater vision for the world?
T: I hope we can see that all people, at our core, are more similar than different. To that end, I hope we can be more connected rather than divided. But it’s also important to me to look at Jesus and how he, without fail, stood on the side of the oppressed. I hope we can follow his lead. Hopefully love will reign, but I think that idea is lost if those in bondage are not free. I see a world where people of all nations achieve self-determination.
K: Amen to that. I’d love to see people being willing to give up comfort and security, at a larger scale, like a nation level, to help those who have none.
Who would play you in a movie of your life and why?
T: This question could possible ruin my life because from my answer, you’ll know I’ve thought about this before at length. I have decided that should a biopic come out on my life, the director would have to bring me and do casting calls all around the world. We would have to discover a young Chinese girl to play me because I don’t trust anyone in Hollywood! And we need more Asian actors!
K: Ah man, it would have to be me. No one else would do it quite right.
What is your favourite way to waste time?
T: Sometimes during school when we’re all up to our heads in studying, my friends and I will order take-out and watch three old Disney movies in a row.
K: Can I coooome? I love Disney movies! I have favourite ways and then I have the ways I usually waste time haha. My favourite would be dragging out hangout time with my favorite people too long even when I should be going home and studying. Doesn’t really matter what we’re doing!
If you could learn the answer to one question about your future, what would it be?
T: I’m a fourth-year university student! Where do I do my Master’s? Should I do a Master’s? Should I work? This is the worst question.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
T: If you’re close to an IJM campus chapter, I’m sure they’d love to hear from you! It means so much that people in the community supports their students.
This article is part of a series featuring the amazing individuals who have decided to participate in the Just Move