Creativity that changes lives

Cookies, a 32 member dance crew, just one the VIBE XX dance competition. More importantly they used their artistic talents to join with World Vision in helping spread awareness about the 85 million children who are forced into 3D – dirty, dangerous, and degrading jobs.

How might you use your artistic gifts – music, dance, spoken word, writing, design, videography – to help not only create beauty in the world but also create social change? Find out more about joining our World Vision Youth Creative Collective.

Your talents matter, and they can help change our planet.

Consumptivism

Consumptivism: kənˈsəm(p) təˌvizəm/ – The art of aligning what we believe with what we buy.

I read an article last week that really made me think. It talked about the inconsistency between advocating for the poor while buying products that keep them poor. The article argued that living this way is like “protesting a politician while donating to his campaign.” This illuminates the insanity of saying you believe something while behaving in a way that betrays that belief. As someone who has committed the last 5 years of my life to ending extreme poverty and mobilizing young activists for this cause I’ve been wrestling with the ways that my behaviour doesn’t align with what I say I care about and believe.

Perhaps the area I wrestle with this the most is in buying products. Buying something is much more than just an economic exchange; it is a value statement and a sacred act with profound implications that we don’t often consider. One of my favourite authors, Ravi Zacharias, often says that “money is congealed life”, meaning that how we spend money is an extension of who we are and reveals what we really value and believe about ourselves and the world. If you want to know what someone cares about just look at their bank statement.

So here is my question. Do the things you buy affirm and align with what you say you believe and care about or do they conflict? If you consider yourself an activist and are passionate about changing the world does that filter down into the decisions you make at the mall or on Amazon? After thinking about this for about a week I posted something on Facebook that has created a bit of a stir. I said: “It is impossible to love someone while actively participating in their oppression. Cheap for you comes at great cost to those who are vulnerable and easily exploited.” This whole realm of conscious consumption and supply chain ethics is a complex one but worthy of careful consideration for those who desire to lead an authentic integrated life where there is integrity and alignment between belief and practice. Changing the world is not about causes, issues, and policy it is about people and loving people enough to fight for their liberation and flourishing.

This is where things get real and practical: there are always people on the other end of the products that we buy! Your purchases directly connect you to those people and either contribute to their empowerment or to their oppression. If we say that we care about people and are against their oppression and exploitation then we have to be courageous enough to start asking ourselves how the things we buy affects the people who produce them. This isn’t easy and it can get really frustrating. I have a friend who committed to only buying products that were made in Canada for a year and it was incredibly frustrating and difficult, especially since many products that say they are made in Canada use materials that are sourced overseas with no transparency. But we can’t simply plead ignorance and bury our heads in the sand pretending like our consumption doesn’t affect real people.

I am profoundly aware of how far I still have to go in this area and my own hypocrisy as I type this on a computer that likely contains metals unethically mined in DR Congo where I lived as a boy.

So what do we do? Here is my suggestion for a way forward: become a Consumptivist (yes I made that up but roll with me). Consumptivists combine their activism with their consumer power to create a ripple effect that impacts their own lives, the lives of the people and communities that make our stuff, and changes the way companies behave. Here are a few ways to get started…

1. Humanize: Restore the human element to our consumption by constantly reminding yourself that “someone made this” and asking the question “how does this purchase affect their life?”

2. Simplify: Live a simpler life by buying less stuff, selling stuff you don’t need and refusing to buy into the culture of more. Carefully define need and want and focus on buying things you actually need with the occasional indulgence.

3. Analyze: Have a look at your bank statement over the last 3 months and see what your spending says about your priorities.

4. Vote with your $$$: Buy products from companies who are transparent about their supply chain and where their products come from and how they affect who made them. Don’t buy products from companies who are not transparent about where their products come from. Companies can and will change quickly if their current practices are no longer profitable.

5. Educate: Learn about the importance of Fair Trade and share what you learn with your friends. Use resources like Made in A Free World, the Free 2 Work app, the Better World Shopper app, and others like these to guide your purchasing decisions.

6. Pay the price: We can’t keep demanding cheaper prices on the products we buy from companies while punishing them for using unethical means to provide them to us. Cheap is costly! Someone pays the price for cheap goods and if it’s not you it is almost always the producers on the other end who are easily exploited because poverty makes them vulnerable. We have to be willing to pay more and adjust our budgets to make this possible.

7. Advocate: Use your voice to advocate for people who are exploited by unjust labour practices and exploited by corporate greed. Check out World Vision Canada’s No Child for Sale campaign at www.nochildforsale.ca for resources and opportunities to get involved and start a fundraising campaign of your own to help victims of child labour and exploitation in Thailand.

8. Don’t go solo: Invite others to become a consumptivist with you! You will need the support and accountability when making hard choices and when you’re tempted by convenience over doing what’s right.

I would love to journey with you on the road to becoming a consumptivist and share more of my journey. You can find me on Facebook at or join our community of young activists

Graeme

SHE MADE US BELIEVE, THAT A BETTER WORLD IS POSSIBLE

Dear World Vision Youth Community, Friends and Supportors,

On August 7th, 2014 a bright light was taken from our world, youth community and family. Alex Foto (19 years old) was killed in a tragic accident in London, Ontario when a cement truck collided into her as she was biking. We are in shock and our hearts are broken at the news of this tragedy.

If you had the opportunity to meet Alex, travelled with her, or have been impacted by her life, you would undoubtedly know that her generosity, love and selfless nature were among but a few of the characteristics that described this amazing young woman.

A few highlights from Alex’s journey with World Vision:

– Going into her second year of University at Waterloo University, studying International Development
– Led 6 consecutive 30 Hour Famine events
– World Vision Brand Ambassador
– Participated in World Vision Leadership Trip to the Dominican Republic
– Leadership on the National Famine Team
– Hosted Girl Rising screening
– Participated in World Vision’s North American Regional Forum
– Launched University of Waterloo World Vision Club
– Youth Ambassador Program Graduate
– Received Ontario Volunteer Award 2014
– Participated in World Vision Cup advocating event in Brazil
– Speaker at numerous events such as: Count Me In Conference and Today’s Teens
– Participant of the open space retreat which created the youth engagement strategy for World Vision Canada.
– World Vision Heroes for Children award recipient

Alex was a beautiful, compassionate, devoted advocate, dear friend, creative leader, encourager, beloved daughter and champion of the poor. All who knew Alex, knew that she was a world changer, in reality, now we see that she was one who was placed on this planet to change multiple worlds.

In Alex’s own words from her Youth Ambassador application, of why she is passionate about justice and helping others:

“The question of why do I do what I do is often one I get, but seldom have an answer for. I do it because this is what I feel I am meant to do. I truly believe I was put on the Earth to do, so I do it.”

Before the world lost Alex, she had a dream of gathering people across the country to participate in a water walk that would raise awareness of the global water crisis. In 2015 we made that dream a reality raising over $80,000 towards life changing World Vision water projects.

Alex’s family have requested that all donations be towards World Vision Canada.

donate_now

If you’ve been inspired by Alex’s life like we have been, we want to challenge you to #LiveLikeAlex

We’ve also setup a permanent page to gather reflections and responses to Alex’s life.

Alex did many great things in her time on earth. Here are some ways you can take making a difference to the next level the way Alex did with World Vision.

Share your story of how you’re responding in memory of Alex with hashtag #LiveLikeAlex or send us your story and we can help share your story as well at yourmovement@worldvision.ca

OMG I’m Starving

… a phrase that I’m certain many of us are guilty of saying once or twice a day.

I’ve always been somewhat of an overly dramatic individual; hyperbole language being a character trait since I was a child. I would be forced to wait forever; I always had a million problems and a ton of homework to get through.

As an “adult”, I’ve come to learn how to tone down my vocabulary to appropriately address my needs. Perhaps it’s coming to learn and understand the intense effect on the world that our words can have, or maybe because I’m finally growing out of that stage of my life that the overdramatic flares are no longer necessary to get my point across. But for some reason, the word starving has never been able to leave the depths of my personal vocab.

What does it mean to be starving? In my world it means that my morning bagel from Tim Hortons wasn’t enough. That the “All You Can Eat” sushi bar near the office wasn’t as appealing as I wanted it to be. That a commute home took longer that I had wanted it to and my evening routine has been pushed back. That I’m too lazy to walk to the grocery store so my cupboard holds nothing but stale crackers and 19 different and opened packages of pasta.

“omg I’m starving, so I ordered a pizza” – is always how that text message finishes reading. Like the rest of the world, I’m wonderfully addicted to pizza and am interested in learning about how to make pizza consumption my full time job. When I’m starving, the Dominos guy is typically banging on my door with a pizza I’ve ordered from the comfort of my couch.1

Did you know that when your body is actually starving, it begins to attack itself? Desperate for any kind of valid nutrition, the body has no choice but to investigate nutrients and protein that our muscles are using to keep us going.

At World Vision Youth Canada, we take hunger seriously. We provide emergency food to make sure children and families get the essential nutrients during a time of crisis. We also help families strengthen and improve their ability to produce or purchase their own food. This helps communities to be better equipped to handle future food challenges.

Families in rural areas often grow or raise their own food. They rely on crops and animals that grow locally as well as traditional recipes that may not equal balanced, nutritious meals. We focus on providing nutrition for pregnant and lactating mothers, along with mothers with children under 5, who are most vulnerable to the long-term impact of malnutrition.

I’m not sure how we’ve hijacked this word and turned into a declaration of personal status. How often are you telling people that you’re starving? Does the word come across your lips easily? What are the circumstances? Is it because your full fridge appears to be empty, or because your home has been devastated by natural disaster, war or an economic collapse?

I ask you to be deliberate with the words that you’re choosing each day – think about what you’re saying, who might actually be experiencing those feelings, and what you can do to actually stop those feelings of hunger. Challenge yourself to learn more about the issues, raise awareness, and fundraise for the cause and fast for 30 hours to experience it all.

When you join the 30 Hour Famine, you are joining a global movement dedicated to tackling and ending extreme hunger and poverty.

“omg I’m starving… for change”

Do The Famine

1 Fun Fact: Once, I documented the entire pizza journey on Snapchat to one of our Youth Ambassadors because I take my mentoring job a little too seriously.

Legacy One

Legacy One is a non-profit organization that seeks to impact students through the urban arts.

Using artists trained in hip-hop dance, spoken word poetry, legal graffiti art, and dj’ing, we offer a variety of programs and workshops that encourage students to find their unique voice. We define voice as the element that makes students come alive and gives them hope and purpose – it is their gifts, passions, and potential. Legacy One challenges students to use their voice to influence their communities and to leave a positive legacy.

The Legacy One artists have been mentored and trained by respected dancers, spoken word and graffiti artists, and DJ’s from Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, France, and New York – artists such as Kaze, Gemini, Sweepy, Nick Demoura, Shaun Evaristo, Johnny “J Blaze” Erasme, Jonathan “Jonboogie” Rabon, Lunacee, Lady-C, J-sik, Kid David, Luigi, Y-not, Bobby Mileage, Flexum, Propaganda, Jonny Williams, and Jeff Goring. Over the last four years, Legacy One has performed and taught in schools across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New York, England, and Malta!

www.legacyone.ca

Overcoming Fear

Stephanie_Blog

Do you remember when you were six or seven years old? I remember growing up and not being afraid of anything (except for spiders because everyone knows they are gross). I rode my bike down steep hills and wouldn’t let scrapes and bruises stop me from going even faster. I would swing from the monkey bars and wouldn’t let blisters on my hands stop me from going again and again. I wrote stories and dreamt up make-believe worlds and shared it with every person that would listen.

But as we grow older, we let our fears take over. We start doubting ourselves and stop trusting in what we are capable of. We get into routines that are comfortable instead of pushing our limits. We stop believing we can do great things because we compare ourselves to others and immediately think we can never be as good as them. We stop thinking outside the box because we value more on what society deems as acceptable than our own freedom of creativity. We stop standing up for things that matter because we feel that one voice is insignificant. We stop trying new things because we are scared to fail. We stay down when we fall because giving up is far easier than trying again. We spend more time worrying than dreaming big. We allow our weaknesses to overshadow our strengths and achievements. We let our fears and failures define who we are.

We begin to forget the bigger picture. We all have hopes and dreams. Each one of us is blessed with different characteristics, even little quirks, which make us unique. Every individual has the freedom to chase after our dreams. We are going to fall down sometimes but we only grow by getting back up on our feet and learning from our mistakes. It is with encouragement and support that we can be taken to new heights.

Find something that brings you hope and gets you going each day. For me, I know that the children I met in the villages of the Dominican Republic or the orphanages in Thailand need someone to share their stories. Those children are not projects, but real people with hopes and dreams like you and me. Although I am just one person, it doesn’t mean I can’t make change happen. My voice can inspire others to join the movement for change, but only if I choose to use it. There are seven days in a week and someday isn’t one of them.

We only have one lifetime to do the things we love. I don’t want to live a passive life led by fears. I don’t want to settle for comfortable or good enough. I want to work hard and pursue what I desire. I want to go on adventures that scare me and embrace the unknown. I want to live a courageous life not bound by fear. I want to learn new things and do the impossible. I want to change the world.

I hope you do too.

Let’s step fearlessly into a new year.

FAQ

  • How do I sign up to do Famine?Click here!
  • Do I have to register online?Yes, every person participating in the Famine must register online. This is great news! The online registration system is less hassle than collecting cash and doing endless hours of paperwork, and helps us save 50% in paper processing costs which means we are able to give more resources to fight hunger! If you think about it, famine is caused by drought, drought is linked to climate change, climate change comes from waste and pollution…we’re breaking the cycle by going green!
  • How old do I have to be to do the Famine?The minimum age is 13.
  • When is the global Famine date? Can I change my date?Join the Global Movement and do your Famine April 29th, 2016. However, you can choose to do Famine whenever you want. To change your date:
    1. Click here to login to your account.
    2. Click on “profile” tab at the top of the page.
    3. Click “Change my Famine date & more” on left side of the page.
    4. It will then ask you when you will be doing your famine and you can manually enter your own date.
  • Where do I go if I want more information on how to do the Famine?Get the Famine Guide and other resources here.

Change the World

This is a clip from the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, 20 years ago.

He decided not to live the life that was handed to him, but to carve his own path. He realized that “Everything around you that you call life, was made up by people no smarter than you.” You can influence, shape and change.

Steve went on to change the computer, music, and phone industry, while capturing the imagination of millions around the world.

What would it look like if the same genius that helped spread smartphones across the planet, was applied to spreading hope, justice, and peace?

In the words of Mary Oliver – what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Maybe one day you’ll work for World Vision, maybe you’ll start your own social enterprise, or maybe you’ll find yourself living on the other side of the planet caring for orphans.

What’s for certain is, if you fully embrace the fact that your life is yours to shape, you will never be the same, and neither will our world.