Story by Laura Tester
Investing in Canada’s youth means a future investment in philanthropy.
A Better World Canada is banking on it.
About five years ago, it created a youth division, Tomorrow’s Edge. High school and university students are empowered to make positive changes in local and international communities.
Some will end up seeing firsthand what A Better World is doing overseas and what they can do to support its cause — whether it’s through their chosen career, volunteering or financially sponsoring a project.
In July, nine females, aged 17 to 25, received $2,000 scholarships to go to Kenya on behalf of Tomorrow’s EDGE. They had already participated in five months of online instruction, including one topic on the pros and cons of poverty.
Prior to Kenya, Jessica Llewellyn of Bedford, N.S. had travelled in 2011 with her family to St. Lucia with ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) Canada. They helped build a water cistern on the Caribbean island.
The EDGE trip gave Llewellyn greater independence, but still within a group setting.
“What I liked most was how much it opened my eyes to what happens in a Third World country and how happy the people are with nothing,” said Llewellyn, 18. “It really humbles you.”
Rayna Sutherland raised money for A Better World while attending Sunshine Hills Elementary School in Delta, B.C. Now older, she was interested in viewing projects firsthand.
“I really wanted to see the impact of how A Better World implements and maintains projects,” said Sutherland, 17.
The EDGE team visited various projects while under the direction of Eric Rajah, co-founder of A Better World and Rick Wiebe, a Red Deer business owner and project sponsor for A Better World.
Rajah believes wholeheartedly in seeing youth get involved early in humanitarian work.
“The future volunteers and philanthropists are in this group,” he said. “Leaders of tomorrow need this exposure today.”
He hoped the two-week trip to Kenya would achieve several benefits among all or some of these students — continue in humanitarian causes for organizations; consider international development as a career; volunteer with A Better World in various capacities; and embrace a new and compassionate outlook on the world.
That mission appears successful.
Angela McKenna, along with Sutherland and Llewellyn, relayed how they were touched by helping Kenya’s less fortunate and that they want to further help globally through their chosen careers.
McKenna, 23, volunteered in a physiotherapy clinic and was impressed with how the community was supporting children with disabilities.
“We were doing some casting on little boys with club feet — it was sad, but knowing that they have that support was very enlightening,” said McKenna, an aspiring occupational therapist.
McKenna has also been with A Better World to Bolivia and is now helping out with the organization as an administrative assistant.
Young people’s opinions are taken seriously with A Better World leaders.
On the Kenya trip, Wiebe posed a question for the EDGE team to think about through the day. They chatted later on what they saw and learned.
McKenna, a 23-year-old Lacombe resident and Prince Edward Island native, said that young people can offer a new perspective on projects.
In one community, the EDGE team held a leadership workshop.
“At first, the men were a little stand-offish because women over there don’t tend to be in leadership roles,” said McKenna. “Then they said, ‘we need to get some of our women in these workshops’ so it was very inspiring.”
Sutherland said the Kenya trip was positive for her because it solidified her intentions to take international development in university.
“How do you balance being financially stable yourself but also making the impact you want to make?,” said Sutherland, a Grade 12 student. “That’s the biggest question for me right now – how to make both work.”
Llewellyn wants to be a registered nurse and help people around the world.
McKenna always dreamed of going to Kenya.
“You have the opportunity to meet with locals and connect with them,” she said. “You’re always thinking of ways to support them.”