By Meredith Dault
Lara Purvis always knew she wanted to go into development work - it was just a matter of getting the timing right. Originally from South Africa, Purvis and her family moved to Oakville, Ontario when she was a teenager. "We left because of the violence," says Purvis bluntly. "My parents chose to leave because we didn't feel safe there. Terrible things were happening all around us." But she is also honest about the guilt she feels about having abandoned her native country.
For Purvis, pursuing her Master's degree in the Global Development Studies at Queen's is a way to explore that tension. "I find that this program, for me, is a way to reconcile the South African me, who is the person who loves her country so much and wants to learn about it and give back, with the Canadian me, who is about activism and social movements and wanting to make a difference," says Purvis thoughtfully.
Though Purvis says she was always drawn towards activism, human rights and development work, her family had safety concerns and encouraged her to pursue a career in teaching instead. After earning degrees in both child studies and education, she then got a job teaching elementary school. "It was a lot of fun," Purvis recalls, "but it never felt like the right fit. I kept telling myself that I was moulding young people and that was how I was going to make a difference in the world."
It was clear that her activist itch still wanted scratching. After having a child at age 24, Purvis, who is a single parent, found herself at home with an opportunity to focus on building a career as a freelance writer. "Since I was little I've wanted to be a writer," says Purvis. "So I got involved writing for a leftist liberal newspaper -- and I started writing about gay and lesbian rights and human rights, and the rights of minorities."
In time, Purvis started to feel a pull back to academia. "I wanted to go back to school and start looking at the global picture with these issues," she says animatedly. "I am interested in gay and lesbian rights across the globe and human rights in general: xenophobia, poverty... what leads people to get their children involved in war. That's really what brought me to the Queen's program."