Compassion Knows No Bounds
Written by: Miranda, Youth Ambassador
If you had told me that I would be shaving my head when I first received the email inviting me to apply to become a Youth Ambassador with World Vision, I would’ve laughed in your face.
As I was writing my application I was thinking about where I was in my life at that point, and the goals I had for the future. I had just gone on the first two trips of my life, first to Mexicalli, Mexico to build a church and Sunday school with my youth group, and then to Spain and France with my school. I had a desire to not only see the world, but also change the world. I wanted to impact individuals beyond my close family and friends, and broaden my world-views in the process. So when World Vision’s Youth Ambassador Program stumbled into my inbox, I leaped at the opportunity.
Prior to that point, I had participated in the 30 Hour Famine several times, but knew nothing of World Vision beyond that. By the time I found out I had been accepted into the program, I was still fairly blind to the initiatives World Vision participated in, outside of knowing they aligned somewhat with my desire to see a change in the world.
Two months into the program, I was still struggling to not only come up with an impact project, a task assigned to us with the purpose of having every YA create a difference, but also to find my voice in a group of amazing individuals. I’m not overly shy, but compared to some of the YA’s I met, I felt meek. The YA’s I met throughout the program are nothing if not some of the most intelligent, driven and compassionate individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and one thing is for sure, they drove me to try to be remarkable myself, even if it was just to keep up with all of the differences they were making in the world.
By the time the impact project proposals were due, I still wasn’t really sure what direction I was heading in. However, the issue of human trafficking had really caught my attention, and tugged at my heart. As the eldest of three younger sisters, the prospect of any young individual being sold and valued for only their body horrified me. The only problem was I wasn’t entirely sure how I could make a change with so little resources available as a youth.
I decided to shave my head because I wanted to show people that you could make a difference no matter what kind of resources you have, as well as make a statement about what human trafficking victims struggle with. The symbolism behind shaving my head was really about the contrast between Canadian culture and that of Bangladesh. Here in Canada, I have continued to be a contributing member of society even after I’ve shaved my head, because I’m valued for so much more than my body, but for human trafficking victims in Bangladesh, they are told they don’t have a worth outside of their body.
Shaving my head was a nerve-wracking experience, and I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way. I felt a lot of doubt and hesitation leading up to the experience. It was difficult to lose a part of me that defined who I was so much as a person, and I will admit that I struggled a lot with my perception of myself afterwards. However, I value these struggles as much as I value the good that came out of the campaign. The fact that I’ve struggled with my self-esteem following shaving my head reflects the society we live in, and the kind of problems that aren’t only huge issues in human trafficking, but in my everyday life. Why is it that something so non-permanent and unreflective of my personality plays such a huge bearing on my self-perception? Why is it that shaving my head made such a huge statement with people, when my hair hardly reflects who I am at all?
I think that my journey with the Shave to Save campaign has opened my eyes to a lot of injustice in the world, but it has also given me hope that it can be changed. The fact that Fion and I raised over $6000 is still staggering to me, and proves to me that people truly do care. I may never even meet an individual who was truly impacted by my campaign, and neither will any of those who sponsored us, and that says a lot to me about the capacity of human compassion. The fact that two young women in Canada can fight for the rights of young women in Bangladesh is incredible to me, and it’s really taught me not to underestimate the capabilities of our generation to make a mark.
It goes without saying that as much as Shave to Save changed the lives of those impacted by our sponsor’s generosity, it also changed mine in ways I would never have thought possible. It taught me that no human voice should be silenced. Every time an individual speaks up, a change is made, and a spark ignited. It taught me that human compassion knows no bounds, and as much as we can get caught up in our daily lives here in Canada – where we are blessed with freedoms that so many do not enjoy. There is no reason to ignore the capacity we have to spread equality and justice. Shave to Save taught me to not sit back and wait for change to happen, but to bring change into the lives of those around me. Shave to Save isn’t something that ends in me shaving my head, the real journey has just begun. My desire to change the world is only just being shaped, and I really can’t wait to see where the desire for change takes me next.
You can create your own fundraising campaign and start changing the lives of those around you. Click below to start your journey.
Universal Children’s Day
Celebrating Universal Children’s Day.
Have you ever watched a YouTube video showcasing some hilarious kid saying or doing something ridiculous and silly, it almost made you pee your pants? Those are some of the very best YouTube videos out there… they are priceless! My favourite is of this one little guy out in the middle of winter, attempting to shovel some snow. After a moment of frustrated shoveling, followed by a loud grunt, he stops everything he’s doing, and with a completely blank look on his face, takes a long moment to contemplate the situation around him. Suddenly, in an outburst, he looks right up at the sky and cries out “Jesus, make it warm”!!!! It kills me, even just thinking about it! I’m sure you probably have a few favorites of your own you could share too.
Kids are pretty special; they are little creatures of innocent joy and energy… quick to say and do things that you and I couldn’t even imagine ourselves doing. I love observing children, especially when they are at play, which is pretty much all the time; they are just constantly having fun (or at least looking for it)! With their little active minds of wonder, awe and curiosity, they are always completely themselves, often enjoying such small and simple things, those things that we as teenagers and adults will easily overlook entirely. I admire children greatly, for their simplicity and vast imagination which allows them to see the world in such a different light… and it’s our challenge to remember how we too once viewed the world through that lens.
This summer I returned from travelling for a year and a half with “The African Children’s Choir” as an “Auntie” (chaperone), to 16 poverty stricken children from Uganda.
I’ll never forget my first week with them, which was their very first week ever in North America.
There were so many “firsts” they experienced that I had the privilege to be a part of, such as eating cold cereal (cheerios), bouncing around in a bouncy castle, riding an escalator, having access to a mirror, the concept of “pet” animals, snow, lip chap, washing machines, and the magic of hot water pouring out of a tap. Those are all “firsts” that I’ve known almost my entire life, because I wouldn’t be able to tell you about that first time I felt hot water pouring out of a tap; it’s never meant anything to me, not nearly as much as it did to those 16 children from Uganda. It was magic to them; everything was magic to them.
Children are extremely precious, and they possess something so valuable, something so rare that our hard world desperately needs. Too many children have been, and ARE right now, being overlooked, and taken advantage of because of this very gift they possess: their innocence and simple faith, with big imaginations and huge hearts that take on our raw and weary world with such happy steadfastness. To this, my heart’s response has always been who will advocate for them? Who will protect them when they are abandoned, hungry, and sick? Who will speak up for them when they are forced into working in sweatshops, brothels, and fields? Who will fight for them when they are persecuted, slandered and objectified? And who will empower them to go to school, become good parents, achieve their dreams, laugh, play, and love?
I will. Will you?
Click below to learn more.
Sheri McConnell: Director Youth & Student Engagement
Child Soldiers Remembrance Day
One minute of silence stretches to two
Our hearts at the ready, our hands in salute
Then rings the trumpet, solemn and slow
To remember the crosses, row upon row
Recite poems of trenches, wars won at great cost
Recollect renowned battles, the lives that were lost
Doolittle, Dieppe, Old Baldy, and Midway
“Never again,” we all silently pray
War isn’t kind and it sure isn’t fair
There aren’t any winners, not when children are there
We stand to remember but quickly forget
Just how many young ones have fought and faced death
They’re beaten and threatened and forced to take aim
And they’re used as a shield, merely pawns in a game
Children should play with their hearts open wide
Not spy on their neighbours with guns at their side
So I will stay silent to honour the dead
But I will speak out for all that’s unsaid
I will not forget all the kids that are living
Lest I stay quiet and armies keep killing
Lest it’s my silence that means more children missing
Lest this cruel slavery keeps on existing
One minute of silence stretches to two
I’ll fight for the living; join with me, wont you?
The use of children in military engagements is the dark underbelly of an already dark reality. It is difficult to know just how many children are used as soldiers since it occurs illegally and under the radar. Conservative estimates place the number somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 children worldwide, fighting for both rebel groups and government armies (24).1 Children as young as seven have been recruited into armies. 2
This is a bleak reality that demands action. World Vision is helping in the fight against the use of children as soldiers in war. To find out how you can partner with us in the fight, please visit our Gift Catalogue, click below to find out more.
1. Michael G. Wessells, Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection,” (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, ), 2.UNICEF, “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children: Children at Both Ends of the Gun,” available online at www.unicef.org/graca/kidsoldi.htm. Accessed 10 November, 2014.
Something extraordinary and powerful happens when passionate people get together.
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Finding Happiness During Uncertainty
In 2007 back when I was 16 years old, I was going through a difficult time. It was my third year in high school which meant three years of bullying, feeling lonely, being depressed and battling social anxiety. I saw no end in sight and believed my end was near.
On sunny day in Victoria in mid-August the realization hit me, I’m going on a humanitarian trip to Mexico tomorrow, what do I do. For any healthy human being the answer is easy, just go. But for me everything was but easy. During this time no knew I was going through what I was going through. I had battled depression for years and I hadn’t told a soul. I was more afraid of people than I was of dying, but my worst fear was having people find out that I was sick.
The thing about depression is that no one can prove to anyone that they are 100% depressed. You can’t find depression on an x-ray, on a scantron and all you can do is hope that people believe what you tell them. During this day I was faced with the most difficult decision of my life, 1. go on the humanitarian trip but face your fears or 2. Not go and tell your parents that you’re sick after having them spend $1200 on the humanitarian trip.
I choose option number 1. I would rather die than choose option 2. I thought if I had told my parents, my friends or teachers that everyone would assume that I was a freak, sooner or later I would end up in the hospital. During the first 2 days on our way to Mexico, I struggled with every aspect of life such as talking to the people on my trip, how to deal with homesickness and hiding what I was going through when being surrounded by people 24/7.
Even after struggling for a couple of days, I had many bright spots. I made a lot of friends. I became open and started to act like myself for the first time in at least 4 years and more importantly I learned how to trust and love those around me.
When we got to the house we called home, we had travelled for 3 days, cross two boarders and went six hours south of San Diego to a small community called Vicente Guerrero. During the next week in Vicente Guerrero, we spent an hour of time putting together a soccer camp for kids, we visited an orphanage and more importantly we built two houses for two of the most incredible families I have ever met. Why were these two families so incredible? It is because they showed 30 Canadians ranging from the ages of 16-24 how to communicate, how to love each other and how to take nothing for granted.
We are surrounded by poverty, but nothing prepares yourself for the moment where you are stuck in the middle of nowhere in a developing country surrounded by poverty.
On the last day we were there, I knew I had a decision to make. Who would I want to be after we leave in Mexico? Would I want to be the same depressed, bullied guy who was incredibly socially awkward or would I want to become the person I’ve always wanted to be.
The most important thing poverty has taught me is that no matter who you are there will always be someone who has more then you and someone who has less than you. But no matter what, only you can decide how happy you are. In times of uncertainty choosing being happy is no an easy choice. We must demand it. During that last day I choose uncertainty because I knew it would make me happy. Later that night I faced my worst fears and being surrounded by everyone on the trip I told them what I had gone through. I told them my story. It was that week, that my life had no only changed but it changed everyone’s lives that I come in contact with. Since then, I’ve shared my story; in front of high schools, newspapers and even on TV. I used to hate uncertainty and now I’ve leant to love it. It comes with the job when working as a Youth and Student leader. Embrace uncertainty, learn to love it. In order to become someone you always wanted to be, you must do the things you’ve never done.
Fun Fact: The organization I went to Mexico with is with Live Different (which is the same organization which is running the World Vision trip to The DR and Thailand). Also I ended up doing 10 trips in 6 summers while building 11 houses. You can join us on one of these amazing trips that changed my life right here.
Give Love, Bring Hope and Create Change.
Love. Hope. Change.