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Compassion spurs Western student to start charity

December 12, 2012

Compassion spurs Western student to start charity
Joshua Zyss (right) met Mr. Ed Holder, who, along with his wife Judite, endowed a gift at Foundation Western in memory of their son.

Ask Joshua Zyss about his “home away from home,” and he may surprise you. He won’t talk about Toronto, his birthplace. Nor London, his academic home. But he will talk about the Philippines.

Every summer since 2009, Joshua has worked with 20 homeless Filipino children, whom he describes as “my kids.” Through a charity he established with his partner, Blair Smart, called Feeding a Future, he provides them with food, clothing and education.

His involvement in the Philippines began during a 2009 medical mission. While there, he witnessed children scavenging recyclable bottles and cans at a dumpsite, which they would use to buy a bowl of rice.

“Here, a child’s dream would be to go to school and eat something once a day, but they couldn’t because they needed to make money to survive,” says Joshua, who is pursuing a double major in medical science and biology at Western. Now, thanks to Feeding a Future, the children attend school and receive two meals every day, plus medical care.

This charitable work makes Joshua a fitting recipient of the Bruno DaSilva Community Service Award, held at Foundation Western. Established by Judite and Ed Holder in memory of their son, the $4,000 scholarship is presented to a third- or fourth-year student who “possesses leadership qualities as evidenced by strong community service.”

Receiving the award has afforded Joshua the opportunity to make a bigger difference. “During the year, I’ve been able to focus on raising funds to help my kids, and then in the summers to go to the Philippines to provide hands-on help,” he says. “Since going there three years ago, I’ve learned more about life than any class or textbook could ever teach me.”

This passion for learning keeps him focused on the future. After graduating from Western in 2013, Joshua plans to attend medical school and to eventually work with Doctors Without Borders, while also continuing with his commitment to feed, house, clothe and educate his “kids” until they graduate from college.

“I cannot change the world on my own or make a huge difference,” he says,“but I can change the life of one child at a time.”


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