A professional pilot from South Delta is the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award from University of the Fraser Valley.
Sonya Sangster came to UFV because she wanted to fly. And she did, in more ways than one.
Sangster’s UFV education gave her the wings she needed to fly airplanes and to be a leader in helping women in the international development field.
She earned a bachelor of business administration in aviation from UFV in 2006 and went on to continue her economics studies at the graduate level and become CEO of the Tekera Foundation.
Sangster says that combining business and aviation studies opened many doors for her.
“If I hadn’t taken the BBA aviation program at UFV, I wouldn’t have flown planes and wouldn’t have seen what I saw in other countries, which is what inspired me to pursue humanitarian work.”
During her flying career, she chose to work for part of that time for a company that flies on missions for the United Nations and NATO.
This led to some interesting adventures.
“I’ve flown into the jungles of the Central African Republic to pick up warlords for peace talks, and I’ve done missions into some pretty intense conflict zones.”
She even called her parents to say goodbye to them once from the Congo because she didn’t think she was going to make it out during a rebel attack.
While flying for a living, Sangster volunteered at Oxfam Canada running their volunteer engagement program, which encompassed global themes such as women and food security, accessible public services, fair trade, climate change, and gender justice.
She also became a training captain, and trained other pilots on the complicated nature of conflict and humanitarian line flying.
By age 30 she had “capped out” her aviation goals and was looking to do more hands-on work in the humanitarian field.
Her master’s degree from the London School of Economics and her volunteer experience helped her transition into a new career championing innovative solutions to international development through her work with the Tekera Foundation.
Tekera uses a feminist decolonial development model to create new approaches to international development globally.
Its unique model, which Sangster helped design, has been praised by the international community and Canadian government alike.
Tekera works with one community at a time to build social services and then launches small-to-medium businesses whose revenue goes back into funding these services.
Sangster was selected as one of eight leaders to work with Global Affairs Canada to help develop and implement its Feminist International Assistance Policy – particularly their engagement strategy with civil society organizations.