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VIDEO and Story: Heart of Our City - Tacos and toast

While waiting to become a Canadian resident, Daniela Cappelli volunteered with her daughter in tow

A chance encounter at a taco stand in Mexico led one woman down a path that brought her to B.C.’s North Coast.

Daniela Cappelli came to Prince Rupert with her husband and daughter in December 2013 and while she waited for her immigration documents to process she became an active volunteer in her new community.

“I was very curious and I wanted to see what type of community it was, meet people, and besides my mommy activities volunteering has always been a part of my life since I was 14,” Cappelli said.

The Catholic school she went to in Mexico encouraged selfless service and volunteering. She experienced volunteer work in an elderly home and in an orphanage and was moved to do more.

Later, she started a program that provided lunch for children in underprivileged schools that helped feed 146 kids for a whole year.

Cappelli’s energy and good intentions may have never come to Prince Rupert if it wasn’t for striking a seemingly innocent conversation with a man at a taco stand in Puerto Vallarta. At the time she worked at a vegetarian restaurant and often passed the food stand by the bus stop. She asked the man about his Japanese kanji tattoos and what they meant, then invited him to visit the restaurant.

The next day he tried to find her, but it was a holiday and she wasn’t at work. When she passed the taco stand the following day, the owner of the stand told her that the man had been looking for her. Steve, who was from Vernon and is now her husband, started visiting the restaurant. The two kept in touch, eventually getting married. They moved to Cabo San Lucas where they had their daughter Sienna.

City life, shopping centres and traffic, became less appealing to the young family and they decided to move to Canada. Cappelli had been to B.C. twice before, but never to Prince Rupert, where her husband had a couple family members. On paper, the northern city looked like a good place to be.

“There is one thing of everything. All the sports that you can have for kids and then you have a couple good schools,” she said. “I don’t mind the rain. I like the short winters. Everything is close by.”

When they arrived, Cappelli dived straight into volunteering rather than sitting idle while she waited for her immigration papers to go through.

But her one and only ask was that if she volunteered her daughter had to be allowed to be at her side.

“Every volunteering that I do they have to be okay with me having my daughter with me because she was a toddler by the time I came here, so she will always go with me as well,” she said.

The Friendship House Association was the first place they volunteered at. She assisted with a First Nations arts and crafts program. She also had the opportunity to learn indigenous art, which she said gave her an appreciation of the culture.

“Being close to the culture and understanding the culture of whatever place I go is part of my interest. It’s just because it’s part of me,” she said.

Her own multicultural background is diverse. Cappelli was born in Mexico, her mother’s family is from Spain, her father is from Italy and her husband is Japanese-Canadian.

Naturally, she got involved in the North Coast Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society by participating in events and now she’s on the board.

The busy volunteer is a self-described introvert but a trained extrovert, mostly due to her involvement in the Prince Rupert Toastmasters Club. She tried the program in high school but didn’t follow through. With more time on her hands, and hoping to improve her English, she joined Toastmasters and even managed the club’s public relations.

Steadily, her confidence has grown with each speech and event that she emcees. She’s co-emceed the Kaien Fusion of Fashion, Culture and Dance the past two years.

“You just have to take a chance and you have to do it because if you never do it you’ll never get the confidence. It’s an intangible thing. But you have to practice it and do it,” she said.

This year, she officially became a Canadian resident, and she’s working full time with First Canada transportation service as the operations supervisor and assistant manager.

Her daughter turns five in July, and much of Cappelli’s volunteer activities now revolve around what Sienna is doing. Last year, so co-coached blastball with her husband when her daughter joined the league.

Since moving to Prince Rupert, she’s found the community supportive with endless options to volunteer, and although she’s had to scale back now that she’s working, she continues to offer help whenever she has a spare moment — and as long as her daughter can join her.