This year I had the opportunity to fly to Toronto to speak at We Day Toronto 2016 and take part as one of eight young people in Canada whose stories and community initiatives will be recorded as part of the Canada150 Project in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday. Our visions for Canada’s next 150 years will be showcased in every major Canadian city on We Day tours. Inspiring, humbling, adventure-filled; there are so many ways that I can describe this week. From provinces and territories all across Canada, I met other young people who are making change for the better. There was Tunchai, the co-founder of the We Matter movement, helping bring positive role models for indigenous youth in crisis. There was Conner, who helps young people embrace their sexuality and whose actions demonstrate what it means to love without boundaries. There was Mila who hosts blood drives and advocates for women in the fields of STEM. There was Ta’Kaiya, the powerhouse behind the song Shallow Waters, working to inspire first nations youth to rise up above the challenges they face. There was Tedario, whose work reminds us of the contributions of our veterans and what it really means to remember on 11/11. There was Hani, a Syrian refugee though legally blind, uses the tool of photography to document his time in refugee camps. Finally, there was Mustafa, a spoken word poet writing about the injustices of societal inequality and how the world needs to notice and take action.
Though all our passions are so diverse, speaking at We Day again was a much needed reminder that there are so many global issues that each one of us can take part in addressing. I think too many of us take for granted even the simple things we have- to have been born in Canada, in a safe home with access to education and a field of opportunities. However, this is also the crossroad where the danger of complacency lies. It is so easy for me to be comfortable; to stay at my university; to be safe in my hometown; to go through the everyday motions of monotony; to graduate; to build my career; to work; to retire. Isn’t life so much more than that?
Are we not made to do more, to be more, to break barriers, to love, to dream big, to challenge ourselves to traverse beyond the boundaries of what we thought imaginable. Life is about all this. Life is about doing the things you love for the people you love; the people of this earth; the people who you see on the news; the people whose lives you could not imagine yourselves in; the people that wake up every day without access to water, to healthcare, to food, to education, to safety, to homes, to family. What difference can we make if everyone in this upcoming generation pledges to make change on the global scale starting in their local communities? No matter how diverse our passions are, every other young person in the Canada150 project certainly agrees on one thing- the importance of youth empowerment. By investing in the life of just one young person, immense change can happen. But why stop there? Investing in the life of young people can catalyze a generation of change makers, of leaders, of individuals who rise up beyond circumstances to tackle the unknown, to dare to journey alongside the broken and the oppressed and go on to empower others in a synergistic ripple effect.