Syrian Refugees Arrive in Canada

In the evening of Thursday, December 10th, 163 Syrian refugees were welcomed into Canada with open arms. Our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne were both at the Toronto Pearson airport to greet the refugees and give them welcome packages.

After hearing about all the horrors that the citizens of Syria have had to endure, it made me so happy to see pictures of kids smiling and laughing. The children and families have been given an opportunity to get a job, make money and live a life filled with freedom that their parents couldn’t have imagined. As Justin said, “They step off the plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada with social insurance numbers, with health cards and with an opportunity to become full Canadians.”

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Today, I felt very proud to be a Canadian after reading all of the heartwarming messages people have been sending.  THIS is what Canada is all about – hospitality, kindness, and equality.

Dear refugees, I personally welcome you all into the country I have called home for my entire life. I hope you will soon be able to call it home too.

Welcome to Canada, my country is now yours.

Thanks for joining me on my journey to change the world!


My Interview with Alex Deans!

Alex Deans is an 18-year-old inventor, artist, and speaker. When he was 12-years-old he invented a device that helps the blind get around without assistance. Since then, he has been named “future leader” by Maclean’s and has spoken at We Days across Canada. A few days ago I had the chance to hop on the phone with him and ask him a few questions about his experiences.

  1. So I know your invention of the iAID is a device that helps the blind get around without assistance. Can you tell me a little bit more about how it works?

So the iAid is based off how a bat navigates using sound. There are two different systems for the iAid, one is for indoors and one is for outdoors. Indoors the device uses four sensors on your belt, and it essentially scans your room using sound and it maps out where all your obstacles are and where your destination is. The iAid then actually plans a route to your destination automatically, and all that information is relayed back to you through a little joystick that I built. You hold this joystick in your hand and it will actually rotate by itself to show you where to go.

  1. I know that you started researching and making the iAid at only 12. Did you ever face any obstacles with people not taking your seriously because of your age? If so, how did you overcome them?

Yes, there were two main obstacles that I faced when developing the iAid. One was learning to code at such a young age and teaching myself from scratch, and that took me three years. Once I reached out onto the forums and online, there were a lot of people who said I couldn’t do it, especially since I was 12. Not a lot of people are willing to back a 12-year old with such a big idea. So it took me about a year and a half to find those people who support me and mentor me and I worked with them over the next couple of years too.

  1. For the past two years you have spoken at We Day. What did it feel like to speak in front of 20 000 passionate teens like you?

It feels amazing! I first had the excitement last year at We Day 2014 and that is definitely one of the main reasons why I came back in 2015, and because it is so fulfilling for me to speak with people I can relate with, people who are actually making real change. Really what I am trying to do is have a conversation with you guys, with people in the audience, to have an open dialogue. Not to just have that stop at the end of We Day, to have that continue throughout the year so we can work together to make big changes, and that is what I love the most about We Day.

  1. If you could change one thing in the world what would it be and why?

One thing I really want to change is how Aboriginal people are treated in Canada. That’s actually something I am really passionate about, and it is something I am started to get involved with more and more. I am working on creating an equal playing field level for Aboriginal youth and Aboriginal education. I want to see them have access to the same things that we do.

5. Who is someone whose leadership inspires you?           

My role model as leader would probably be Bryan Stevenson. He is a lawyer in the states who advocates fully for people who are marginalized and who nobody else is backing, and he backs them. He gives them supports and advocates for them, and I find that to be really powerful.

  1. My goal is to one day be speaking on the We Day stage. Do you have any advice on how to get there?

Yes, We Day speakers are people who have a lot of experience, but they are also the same people who are in the audience. To get onto the We Day stage, all you have to do is follow your ideas, pursue those dreams and make them happen, have some tangible experience with your idea and then you will be able to  share that experience with people regardless of whether that is on the We Day stage or not. I think the main thing is just to pursue your idea and make it happen, and them some crazy, wonderful things can come from that. For me, it was speaking on the We Day stage but for a lot of other people it is just maybe speaking to do different organizations or maybe becoming involved with a certain group. There are a lot of different avenues that your experiences can lead to.

  1. Do you have a motto that you live by?

I don’t have a specific motto but mine would just be “If you have a dream, chase it,” because no matter what it is in life I like to make sure I devote 100%of my attention to that dream or idea I have and make it happen.

  1. When you are not inventing things or speaking in front of thousands of people, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

There are a lot of things I like to do. I am really passionate about visual arts, so I love to paint especially portraiture. I also really music so I play piano and guitar and I sing, so I do that as a kind of release. I really enjoy playing sports, especially skiing. I live for skiing, I started when I was two years old and it has become something that I really love to do.

Thank you Alex for letting me interview you!

Thanks for joining me on my journey to change the world!


My Interview with Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches!

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet the band “Chvrches” at their concert in Toronto. It was a really amazing experience and I really enjoyed talking to them.

Chvrches is an electronic band based in Scotland. The members include lead singer Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty. Their music is growing in popularity and is currently #1 in Scotland. Some of their hit singles include my personal favourite, “The Mother We Share” and “Leave A Trace” from their new album “Every Open Eye.”

Not only do they produce amazing music, Lauren Mayberry is a proud feminist and does not accept online misogyny. Recently at one of their concert’s a man in the crowd yelled out “Marry me!” Her response was not exactly what he hoped for.

This was her answer: “Pardon? What’s the hit rate on that? … Does that work out well for you, sir? I assume, that because you are here, you know a little bit about our band. And I’m very grumpy. I don’t want that shit.”

My dad and I were very lucky to be chosen to attend the meet and greet before the concert.

Me With Chvrches

Because of Lauren’s interest in feminism, I thought that it would be a great idea to ask her a couple questions for my blog. The first question I asked her was “What challenge facing women affects you most in your day-to-day life? Her answer was quite interesting. She said that one of the things that makes her sad is how women talk about other women. In interviews people often want her to say something bad about other females.

The next question I asked her was “What advice would you give to your younger female listeners like myself?Her advice was to be yourself and do what ever you want. You shouldn’t worry about what other people think and just ignore what everyone else says.

Thank you so much to Lauren and the rest of the band for taking the time to talk to me!

Thanks for joining me on my journey to change the world!


We Day Toronto Here I Come!

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We Day Toronto is fast approaching and I could not be more excited for it! Last year’s We Day was so amazing so I am pumped to be able to attend again this year!

What Is We Day?

In case you didn’t already know, We Day is an annual concert/pep-rally organized by Free the Children to commend youth for taking action throughout the year and to inspire them to continue making a difference throughout the whole year. Famous celebrities and inspiring people take the stage to inspire the kids. Instead of paying to go to We Day, you earn it. Tons of schools across Canada and the United States take action throughout the year to try to earn a spot. We Day Toronto is not the only event that will be taking place – many other We Days will take place across Canada, the United States, and even England.

Who Will Be Coming To We Day Toronto 2015?

The lineup for We Day Toronto was just announced today and it seems amazing!

Demi Lovato – Singer, songwriter and actress

Hozier – Award-winning singer and songwriter

Nick Jonas – Multi-talented recording artist and actor

Shawn Mendes – Award-winning singer and songwriter

Carly Rae Jepsen –  Multi-platinum GRAMMY nominated singer and songwriter

Earvin “Magic” Johnson – NBA legend, two time Hall-of-Famer, entrepreneur and philanthropist

Nina Dobrev – Award winning actress

Hedley – Multi-platinum, Juno and MMVA Award-winning recording artists and Free The Children ambassadors

Tavi Gevinson – Editor-in-Chief of Rookie Magazine

Kiesza – Singer and multi-instrumentalist

Marlee Matlin – Academy Award-winning actress and devoted social activist

Henry Winkler – Actor, director, producer, and author

Kardinal Offishall – Award-winning rap artist, music producer and Free The Children ambassador

Francesco Yates – Canadian singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist

Silken Laumann – Olympian, inspirational speaker, author and child advocate

Micheal “Pinball” Clemons – CFL Hall of Famer, Vice Chair of the Toronto Argonauts

Joseph Boyden – Novelist and short-story writer

Spencer West – Me to We motivational speaker, Free The Children ambassador and author

Liz Trinnear – ETALK reporter and Much host, and co-host of We Day Toronto

Tyrone Edwards – E! and Much host, speaker

Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra – Members of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra

Craig and Marc Kielburger – International Activists and co-founders of We Day

Elliot Miville-Deschènes – Actor, singer, and activist

Alex Deans – Innovative youth artist, inventor, and leader

Chris Studor – Co-Founder of the Get REAL Movement

Leanne Prendergast – Founder and President of Love Our Lives

Dextrous One – 7 year-old DJ who holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s youngest DJ

Tonika Morgan – Motivational speaker and social change activist

Annaliese Carr – Award-winning author, inspirational speaker, and youngest person to swim across Lake Ontario

Ryan Scheel Dance Group – Toronto Dance Crew led by dancer and choreograoher Ryan Scheel

The lineup for next Thursday sounds fantastic!

Will YOU be attending We Day Toronto? Tell me in the comments below.

Thanks for joining me on my journey to change the world!


Gap’s New Clothing Line Is Empowering Girls!

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I find that when I go into most stores I feel like I am being pushed into stereotypes. For example, the girls side of the store is full of pink and purple clothes because apparently they are “girl” colours. These stereotypes are limiting girls and forcing them into a confined box. Gap’s new clothing line is trying to change just that.

Here is a bit of information from the website and a video:help us empower girls everywhere

What I think is really awesome is that Gap is donating $250 000 to Girls Inc, and every purchase from the collection contributes to the goal. Girl Inc is an international charity “Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.”

I also think it is good that Gap has a good balance between marketing and social good. Obviously Gap will be making money off of these clothes but I think it is excellent that they are also making a statement.

Here are some of my favourite shirts from the collection:

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GapKids x ED graphic raglan tee

What Gap is doing is really great and is going to inspire a lot of girls to be themselves!

Thanks for joining me on my journey to change the world!


Dear Baby Girl: A Spoken Word Poem

Recently, a fellow member of the Because I am a Girl Speakers Bureau named Nirosha attended Free The Children’s Take Action Camp. The energy at camp was so inspiring that she wrote a spoken-word poem called ‘Dear Baby Girl’ and presented it at the talent show on the last night. Nirosha’s words are so incredibly powerful and really make you think about the huge issue of gender inequality. Please like, comment, subscribe and share this video with all your friends and your family.

Our Pink LemonAID Stand Success!

Yesterday, my cousins, my sister and I set up a Pink LemonAID stand to raise money for the Plan International initiative Because I am a Girl. It was a huge success and a great experience for both me and my younger cousin and sister.

pink lemonaid stand

We came up with the idea because my little cousins Preeti and Arjun wanted to do something to help girls around the world just like I have. I thought that it would be a great idea for me to help them do a Pink LemonAID stand so we spent about a week gathering materials, making plans, and making posters.

The day of, we got to the Farmers Market and set up our big canopy and our table along with our signs. At first it looked like we weren’t going to be making much money. For a while we only had $2 in our donation jar but very soon more people started coming and buying lemonade along with handmade bracelets made by my sister and I. How it worked was that there was no set price for the drink, although there was a recommended donation, which was $2. Basically, people gave what they wanted. Most people gave $2, but we got some fives and even a twenty.

pink lemonaid
By 12:00 we we were already sold out!

“This is the best day of my life!” That is what my 7 year old cousin said yesterday because she felt so good about making a difference!

By the end of the day we we were extremely hot and tired but we felt proud of what we had done. The grand total came to………drum roll please! $700!!!

Even if you weren’t able to come out yesterday you can still donate at:

Thanks so much to everyone who donated!

Thanks for joining me on my journey to change the world!


How To Find Your Spark!

Global warming. Gender inequality. Bullying. Those are just three of the issues that are currently taking place in our world. There are so many issues and problems in the world that need to be fixed, but they can’t be solved without you, yes YOU! If you can figure out what issue you care about you can change this world!

How do you find your spark, you ask?

Step #1: Get angry.

What is it that makes you angry? Is it lack of clean water in Africa or animal extinction? That issue that makes you mad, that is your SPARK.

Step #2: Issue + Talent = Change

Once you have figured out what issue you care about add it to your talent and that will equal big change. For me personally, an issue I really feel strongly about is girls’ rights and one of my talents is writing. That is why I write a blog on social justice issues. Another example would be if your issue is lack of clean water and your talent is soccer,  you could host a soccer tournament to raise money.

Step #3: Inspire others.

When other people see you making a change, they will be inspired to do the same. That will act like a ripple effect and more and more people will start creating change just like you!

Below is a video of people aged 0 to 100 on what they want to change in our world.

What is YOUR spark? Comment down below.

Thanks for joining me on my journey to change the world!


My Experience At Take Action Camp!

This past weekend I came back from Take Action Camp bursting with excitement and passion about changing the world. Located in Bethany, Ontario, Take Action Camp is a Free The Children camp that centers around one idea – that we, the young people, have the power to change the world.

What made it so special? Below is a list of my top 5 memories.

New Friends: I went into the camp knowing absolutely no one, and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous at first. However, at camp everyone was so nice, inclusive, and caring. What was cool for me was that i got to meet people who were like-minded and were just as passionate as me about changing the world. By the end of the week, the 80 of us were like a close-knit family and we were all sad to say goodbye.

Minga Games: When we came to camp we were all put into different colour teams, and throughout the week we got to participate in really fun challenges. The games we did were all super fun and entertaining and each group really learned to work as a team.

Special Meals: Throughout the week we had two special meals that really opened our eyes and made us realize how fortunate we are. For one of the meals we were put into “families” and were given what a typical family that visits a food bank would receive. (We ate rice, beans, bread, and tomato soup.) Another meal we had was called the “Hassienda Dinner” where we learned about the Hassienda system that took place in Ecuador where the Spanish came in and took away their rights and culture. 10 campers were randomly chosen to represent the Spanish and sit at the head table. They were given burgers, pasta, and drinks. However, the rest of us only got food if we turned our shirts around, sang my little tea-pot and sat on the floor. For some of us, it was frustrating to have to do those little things so it was crazy to imagine what the Ecuadorians must have gone through and are still going through.

Coaching sessions: Each day at camp we did three coaching sessions with the facilitators. In the issues sessions we talked about current issues, what we care about, and how we can make the world a better place. The Reflecting sessions focused on reflecting on yourself as a person and understanding who you are. Finally, the Leadership section focused on understanding different points of view, public speaking skills, and learning how to be a good leader.

Take Action Day: Take Action Day was a day where we got to take everything we had been learning and put it into action. We had the option of volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, the Christie-Ossington Centre, and the Free The Children offices. I chose to go to the Free The Children offices where were given a tour and we helped paint bricks for the community garden.

Overall, my week living Me to We was absolutely amazing and thanks to all the people there who made my week so awesome!

Thanks for joining me on my journey to change the world!