In eulogizing my late father, I found it helpful to share what I had deeply learned from him — principles that imprinted upon me and helped to make me who I am. I likewise learned some very important lessons from Silvia in the nearly 20 years I had worked with and known her...

  • Care deeply and fearlessly — Silvia embodied deep, empathetic love and caring for others, whether they be family, close friends, local community members, or refugees struggling in poor and war-torn countries around the world. Their pain was her pain; she went to them and helped bear their burden.

  • Express your caring through action — Silvia’s caring went beyond kind words to action (although her words were sincere and very helpful). She tirelessly led initiative after initiative to help those in greatest need, in Cuba, Darfur, rural India, Ecuador, and the streets of Toronto. She was a true social entrepreneur who didn’t wait for someone else to take action.

  • Speak truth to power — Silvia held the leaders she encountered to very high standards, and wasn’t shy about confronting them when they failed. This was perhaps the most challenging thing I learned from her: that you must be prepared to sacrifice yourself, to say what needs saying even though it could result in personal harm, to stand up for what’s right and for the people you care deeply about.

  • Never give up — Finally, I learned about unflinching determination to push through the many challenges that life puts in your way. Because of her deep caring, her commitment to action, and her willingness to confront power, not to mention her struggles with debilitating chronic illness, Silvia faced many challenges, yet she pushed on nonetheless. I would often wonder from where she drew her strength, such was her passion in the face of indifference and adversity.

The following is one of my favourite quotes, from environmentalist David W. Orr, and I think it captures the true character of my dear friend, Silvia:

“The plain fact is that the planet doesn’t need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs more people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
~ David W. Orr

I really can’t believe she’s gone. Throughout our time together, Silvia was a constant source of support, love, and caring. Our world—my world—has been made dimmer with her loss.

— Andy Horsnell