Activist Profile: Darina Smith
December 9, 2009
We continue our series of activist profiles with volunteer Darina Smith. Since November 2008, while working a full-time job, Darina has reached over 13,000 individuals at colleges and other venues like the Warped Tour; she’s also reached many thousands more as an organizer for Mercy For Animals. At this year’s MFA gala in Chicago, Darina was awarded the Ariel Nessel Grassroots Activist Award.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I’m from Slovakia where I lived until the age of 21. After graduating from college, I made a bold decision to come to the US and I’ve lived in Chicago since then. I became an American citizen in 2007.
What are your favorite things to do outside of leafleting?
My interests have shifted since becoming an activist; my job and activism take up most of my waking hours. When I can, I still enjoy dancing, skiing, playing and composing music, and organizing social events. I’m also a keen bargain hunter!
Who has been / is a major influence in your life and why?
I have always made a point of observing those who excel in persuasion and speaking. I’ve learned a lot from my professors during grad school, successful colleagues at work, fellow activists, and have also gained a ton of knowledge from numerous skills books and seminars.
How long have you been involved in animal rights and how did you get interested?
I’ve always had a big heart for animals. I started rescuing stray animals in the third grade. Later, I started volunteering for shelters and organizing rescue programs. I remember being outraged when reading about vivisection and slaughtering of seals and turtles. I didn’t realize that the most pervasive form of animal cruelty was taking place a lot closer to home. Although I intuitively became a vegetarian in college, only years later did I learn the full, despicable truth of the modern meat, dairy, and egg industries.
What made you decide to start leafleting?
I got involved with Chicago’s Mercy For Animals in late 2008 after seeing their bus ad; it really stirred me. I looked them up online and saw a list of local outreach events. I showed up for the next leafleting organized by Mikael Nielsen and Leslie Patterson. From that day, my life transformed into a rich, ultra-meaningful existence.
What was your most positive leafleting experience and why?
Several times when leafleting, I’ve had individuals approach me in a very hostile manner, but eventually come to agree with the pro-veg points, thanks to me hearing them out and responding in a respectful manner. Dale Carnegie would have been proud and I highly recommend his book How To Win Friends and Influence People.
What would you say to individuals hesitant about leafleting?
Re-watch any YouTube factory farming video or read a few pages from any brochure about the life of farm animals. For me, it’s always worked to just look at the pictures; I realize how insignificant my discomfort is compared to how these animals suffer every day, every hour. By leafleting, we are helping them more than by anything else.
For those uncomfortable with the prospect of leafleting, make a point of joining a group outreach event. Look up activists in your city or ask Vegan Outreach to connect you with someone you could leaflet with. Make it your goal to go leafleting once this month, and don’t let yourself off the hook. For me, the sense of pride and accomplishment after each leafleting is overwhelming!