Balmoral Hall grad working to change lives in Northern Manitoba

For many people, the road you take after you graduate from high school often seems like the best route to future success, but along the way you realize you have taken the wrong path.

That happened for Balmoral Hall grad Andi Sharma.

Sharma graduated from Balmoral Hall in 2003, and pursued, through some bumps and twists in the road, a degree in business. Andi graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) degree from the University of Manitoba in 2009, and set off on her career path.

But it wasn’t all she thought it would be.

“I ended up going through a serious personal transformation,” said Andi. “At first, I thought I wanted to make more money and become a CEO. But I started on that path and found it wanting, and decided to go back to school.”

Andi returned to the University of Manitoba, where she completed a Master’s degree in Public Administration in 2013. She then found work as a policy analyst for the Government of Manitoba’s Northern Healthy Foods Initiative. There, she works on supports local and regional projects that contribute to improving the availability, whether through lower prices, improved quality, or greater access, of nutritious food in Northern Manitoba.

“I got the job three years ago. I wanted to work in government, and it ended up being a great fit,” said Andi. “Once I realized I could help, and was passionate about it, I steadily became more entrenched in the job and committed to addressing the severe ongoing food security crisis in Northern Manitoba.”

“It’s a whole other world, rife with inequality and injustice. It’s fourth world living conditions, and it’s close to home. Fourth world living conditions means third world living conditions in the first world.”

Andi points to exorbitant prices for nutritious food as one problem faced. The high price of transporting fresh food means that prices for consumers skyrocket, resulting in less nutritious options being cheaper. Instead of drinking formula, there are babies drinking Pepsi, because it’s cheaper for the parents.

“I feel that I can’t leave until the work is done. I might be married to Manitoba now.”

TEDx Talk
Andi did a TEDx Talk in October of 2015, with the theme of the talks set as ‘elevate’. Andi’s talk was entitled ‘Chasing Systemic Change’. Even with six months of lead up and training for the event, Andi admits it was a bit nerve-wracking.

“You aren’t allowed to take notes up there, and there are 300 people in front of you. It’s a lot tougher than when you’re just practicing by yourself.”

You can view Andi’s 11-plus minute talk on YouTube on the TEDx Talks channel.

Balmoral Hall giving women strength
Andi says that part of the strength and courage needed to successfully deliver her speech came from Balmoral Hall.

“Balmoral Hall empowers women to achieve. I took a bit of a curious route. Rather than becoming a business woman or a lawyer or a doctor, I became a bit of a social justice warrior. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when people think of female leaders, but it’s important to have different examples and role models.”

Pilot’s license
Andi is keen to endeavour on the airborne version of the existing Trucks for Change. Trucks for Change is a charitable organization goal on streamlining donations to be delivered to their intended destinations. Andi’s goal is to fly food up to the North herself, and she is currently working on getting her pilot’s license with Harv’s Air, with the aim of a 2017 graduation.

Airborne Andi
Airborne Andi

“It’s so cool. I took off the other day by myself. There’s a lot more math involved in flying than I ever expected. I hope to be fully licensed by next summer”

Writing for Huffington Post
Andi has also recently begun writing for the online news aggregator the Huffington Post.

“I had helped a friend write an article for the Huffington Post, to the point where I was listed as a co-author,” said Andi. “Two to three days after that post was published, an editor approached me and asked me to pitch a story. I had recently done a speech for the Balmoral Hall 2016 Convocation, so I pitched that.”

The story, entitled “Dear Younger Me: Here Are 15 Things You Should Know”, has been shared more than seven thousand times.

Message for young workers starting out
“Apply for what you want; you’ll be surprised what the substance of your work can give you. If you apply, what’s the worst that can happen? They say no. But just by applying you open yourself up to a world of opportunity. A lot of what has happened to me has come through random coincidences as a result of putting myself out there. You have to be able to fail and overcome adversity to succeed in the long run.”

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