In the story of Zane Hamm’s career path, there are two “Eureka!” moments. One was her stint doing health promotion work for children in Malawi, as part of the Canada World Youth exchange program, where as a 17-year-old she rode around on a rickety old bike with no seat, bringing supplies like immunization kits to rural areas.
The other involves a fox costume.
Zane grew up in a musical family on a farm near the town of Herbert, Saskatchewan. One night, her parents were performing a song at a special needs fundraiser, and Zane had agreed to be the fox mascot. That same night, her high school basketball team was due to play in the provincial finals. “But I had already agreed to do the musical piece,” Zane says. “So I did.”
Putting her community first has always been a priority for Zane. The community engagement and education specialist, who has worked the University of Alberta and the Centre for Public Involvement, teaches courses on understanding community, as well as the theoretical and practical sides of civic engagement. Her goal is always to make government feel more accessible, and for citizens to feel better connected to the people and the services around them. Most people, Zane says, recognize the distinctive pyramids of City Hall. “The question to me is, ‘What’s inside the pyramid?’”
She also believes that engagement doesn’t need to be this huge, official commitment. It can be something as simple as coaching your kid’s sports team, dropping off some food for a neighbour or loaning your bike to a friend.
“No matter what skills you have,” Zane says, “there’s a way of connecting.”