Vanessa Sauvé, 18, is the eldest of four children. She has a brother, Eric, and two sisters, Selena and Mya. Their mother, Véronique (nee Roussel), teaches special needs students at École Félix-Ricard and her father, Serge, works at Total Power Generator Systems and Services.
“Most of our large family — including grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins — all live in Chelmsford, and it’s not uncommon for us to attend mass together and enjoy family get-togethers three or four times a week,” said Sauvé, referring to life before the pandemic. “We’re all very close. We even volunteer together.”
Her family has faithfully helped the less fortunate for years.
“My grandparents have always considered it a moral duty to offer friendship, and accept and support others who need a helping hand. In our family, every generation gives back in some way. We believe that community service brings meaningful change.”
That sense of commitment has filtered down through the generations.
Sauvé and her siblings have been involved in their parents’ volunteer efforts since early childhood.
“I remember in elementary school when our class had an assignment to create a project that would make a difference in the world. I enlisted my family and friends to sell donuts and run a community car wash to raise funds for the Samaritan Centre. It felt so good to help people feel that their lives matter.”
But Sauvé and her family didn’t stop there.
They have continued to visit the Samaritan Centre in downtown Sudbury at Christmas for the last decade, gifting clothing, hot chocolate and treats to those in need. They also volunteer with their parish, Église St-Jean-de-Brébeuf, assisting whenever the church hosts a sit-down community supper for the less fortunate.
In high school, Sauvé sought opportunities to volunteer on her own, joining student council and taking on the role of treasurer.
“The responsibility was a little scary at first, but I knew from an early age that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I took the leap. It was a great introduction to budgets and teamwork.”
That experience also taught Sauvé how to build and manage her own personal finances, so much so that when she landed an after-school part-time job, she was able to save up enough to purchase her own car.
“Volunteering on school committees provides students with a lot of valuable experience they can take into their future careers. I attended meetings where we discussed issues, came up with ideas for new initiatives and gave reports. It was a safe, non-judgemental environment. In our teachers, I have had great role models for overcoming shyness and communicating with confidence and conviction.”
A dancer since age seven, Sauvé particularly enjoys helping her dance instructors at Happiness Is Dancing by assisting with the junior classes. “It gives you a sense of what it’s like to teach and mentor others, and it’s so cool to watch the young kids blossom into confident dancers.”
Coming from a family of dedicated community volunteers, Sauvé has never hesitated to contribute her time and energy to a variety of projects. And she has encouraged friends to join in. Close friends have mentored and supported one another to meet people and tackle new challenges.
“Young people may be unsure about stepping out of their comfort zone because of shyness or a hesitation to try something new. But once they experience volunteering, they build self-confidence and really enjoy helping others.”
In 2020, Sauvé was presented with the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award. This prestigious honour recognizes students who have completed more than the required number of volunteer hours to graduate high school. In her four years as a student at Collège Notre-Dame, Sauvé completed an incredible 1,300 hours of service to her community.
The pandemic has not dissuaded Sauvé from giving back. It has, however, meant that she has had to be creative in how to help others.
“For the last several months, I’ve helped to clean and sanitize our church. Every small task we accomplish and every kindness we show others continues to benefit the community at large.”
Graduating in 2020 in a COVID-19 world left students without a prom and other activities to commemorate this significant milestone in their lives. Ever the optimist, Sauvé and her two best friends, Isabelle and Kya, decided not to focus on the downside of quarantine, but to conduct their own ‘virtual mini prom’.
“Graduation may have been different, but we’ll always have good memories of that unique celebration.”
Sauvé is now studying business administration at Laurentian University, with a goal to specialize in marketing. Her career goals are still at a preliminary stage. “I know I’ll want to remain in Greater Sudbury to be near family.”
Volunteer work has taught Sauvé many valuable skills.
“I’ve learned how to be more organized in my schoolwork and how to prioritize my day-to-day activities. I feel more confident to take the initiative on things and feel comfortable communicating with a wide variety of people.”
Volunteering has also helped her learn more and learn faster. Sauvé has gained the confidence to begin preparing for a future career in marketing and social media, with a goal to eventually operate her own event-planning business.
Vanessa Sauvé’s Words of Inspiration
If you’re hesitant about volunteering because it’s new to you, start small and slowly build up. Open the door to your heart and embrace volunteering as an activity that is comfortable and enjoyable. Helping people can develop into a passion for giving back, especially if your volunteer experiences are fun and you like being in the company of others. Always be kind. Don’t judge a book by its cover. You don’t know the story behind the person. In fact, you might discover that, in some ways, you can relate to them or their life experiences. Treat everyone the same. Always treat people with respect and compassion. And, don’t think of volunteering as work that leads to a tangible reward. Just help wherever and whenever you can. That’s reward in itself. It can be as simple as appreciating kindness from others and paying forward that kindness to others.
Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and regular contributor to Sudbury.com. Are you an advertiser? Learn more about our Community Leaders Program here.