WE Day Toronto 2019: The Power of Youth to Make Positive Change
Ayesha Khan | Toronto, Canada
Children, adolescents, youth. If you’ve been tuning in to what’s been happening this month all around the world, you’re bound to hear one, or all, of these terms. Whether it is the global climate revolution led by Greta Thunberg or the upcoming election season, youth have been upfront and centre in many social and political conversations.
Last week, my friend Fariya and I had the chance to attend WE Day Toronto as reporters - an event that celebrates thousands of young change makers in a day of empowerment, inspiring speakers and celebrities, and education.
The event revolved around what it truly means to be a ‘superhero’. Mental wellbeing, environmental sustainability, bullying, Indigenous issues, and identity were some of the main focuses of the event. David Suzuki, Rupi Kaur, James Arthur, Connor Franta, Nav Bhatia, Penny Oleksiak, and many others made up the star-studded list of speakers. We got to meet with three speakers, all of whom were young women using their resources to make a positive change in their communities. Keep reading the article to watch our interviews:
Maddison Tory was one of the first inspiring speakers we got to interview. In grade 9, she founded Maddi’s Mission after undergoing heart surgery.
The project aims to raise funds to provide programs for children at hospitals by selling scarves designed to look like someone is giving you a hug.
Through a social entrepreneurship program called WE are social entrepreneurs, she was able to successfully start and run her own social enterprise. Currently, she is a WE day and TED talk youth group speaker!
Nevermind that she’s done great things while in high school, Maddison truly inspires us because of her altruistic, caring, and committed mindset. Once she found a problem that hit close to home, she harboured the frustrations from her experience to think of a project that could combat the problem.
Her advice for everyone who wants to make a change in any way: Find mentors and apply to any and every program that can expand your ideas and initiatives. Most importantly, don’t think age dictates the success of your ideas and plans.
We also met Fatima Mela, an advocate against cyberbullying. The grade 10 student had the chance to perform a spoken word about cyberbullying at a WE campaign assembly of about 2000 students earlier this year.
Finally, we met Reina Foster, a vocal and passionate advocate for many first nation issues. She is the Youth Chief in the Lac Seul first nation and began advocating for first nations at the age of 14.
After hearing how well-spoken Reina was during our interview, it came as no surprise that Reina's activism against the childcare system for Indigenous children has led her to be covered by multiple media outlets.
Her advice on how to approach changing your community/the world: Identify the problem that affects you, recognize that you have a voice, work on raising your voice, and find the willpower to invest yourself in the issue you want to solve.
After interviewing the young women, we noticed a couple of things in common about their stories. First, every idea/initiative to bring on positive change begins with a personal experience. A personal experience does not necessarily have to be unpleasant, it simply needs to ignite the willpower to act towards solving a problem. Second, ideas are enriched and refined through programs and mentors. Finally, age is NEVER a barrier to the success of your idea! Putting everything together from WE day, here’s a generalized “equation” that can get you to create a positive change in your community: