6 Young Activists Changing the World

This blog post is written by Tamara Rahmani, Western Canada Charity Engagement Specialist at CanadaHelps.

You would be hard-pressed to go a day without hearing about a young person leading efforts to create positive change in your local community, in Canada, or around the world. From climate change action to challenging social inequalities, young people are demanding action and taking charge. They are organizing marches, walkouts, protests, campaigns, leading nonprofits, lobbying governments, and challenging norms in every aspect of society.

Globally, changemakers like 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg or 22-year-old female education activist Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan are now household names for their advocacy efforts. In Canada, thousands of young Canadians are leading change and making a difference in various fields.

Here are 6 phenomenal young people in Canada who are leading that charge and will inspire you to join their efforts in changing the world for the better.

Stella Bowles | Age: 15 | Location: Nova Scotia

This young environmental advocate first had her voice heard at 11-years-old when she discovered she couldn’t swim in a river near her home because it contained sewage. In response, Stella Bowles decided to test the fecal bacteria in the water for her grade six science project and post her findings on her Facebook page devoted to that project. Not only did she discover the water was very contaminated, Stella learned that 600 sewage pipes were illegally dumping in the river. Her results on Facebook went viral, reaching policymakers from all three levels of government who jointly pledged 15.7 million dollars to clean up the river. Today, Stella has been sharing her message around the world receiving numerous awards and prizes along the way. When she is not speaking publicly, she is using some of her prize money to teach other young people how to test waterways and get involved in clean water work.

Stella Bowles, 15-years-old. Photo courtesy of Béatrice Schuler-Mojon.

Larissa Crawford | Age: 24 | Location: Alberta

Larissa is a young Métis and Jamaican woman from Calgary who began her humanitarian journey at 16 when she launched a fundraiser to start a library at Let Us Shine Academy in Ghana, and contribute to the Kainai Reserve Public Library in her home province. Larissa recently graduated with a double honours in International Development and Communications from York University, Summa Cum Laude, with her 2-year-old daughter on her hip! She now applies anti-racism and Indigenous research to renewable energy policy and program development in Canada, while advocating for Indigenous leadership and anti-racism in the global energy sector. Her advocacy has taken shape in award-winning ribbon skirt making and research, nationally broadcasted political commentary, and contracts with clients such as the Canadian federal government and Métis Nation of Ontario. As a former Ontario government employee and now independent business owner, she works internationally as a consultant, trainer, and professional public speaker.

Larissa Crawford, 24-years-old. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Dolphin (2019).

Faith Dickinson | Age: 16 | Location: Ontario

When this teen from Peterborough was 9-years-old, her aunt told her how she would get very cold from her cancer treatments, so in turn, Faith made her aunt a fleece blanket to keep her warm. This act of kindness and humanity quickly became Faith’s life passion and she soon established an organization called Cuddles for Cancer. To date, Faith has repeated the same gesture, giving 4,500 blankets to people all over the world in 40 countries. The blankets have gone to cancer patients, people experiencing homelessness, veterans living with PTSD, first responders, people grieving the loss of a loved one, and others living with illness or disease. Among her many awards, in 2017 Faith very publicly received The Diana Award created in honour of the late Princess of Wales, igniting her goal to open a new branch in the United Kingdom.

Faith Dickinson, 16-years-old. Photo courtesy of Kensington Palace.

Fae Johnstone | Age: 24 | Location: Ontario

Fae (she/they) is driven because of the way that transphobia and oppression have impacted her and the communities she cares for. She is driven by a desire for a more just, inclusive and equitable world in which trans, 2SLGBTQ+, and all marginalized people, can not only survive, but thrive. Fae is the Senior Associate of Engagement and Mobilization with Wisdom2Action Ltd. As an expert on LGBTQ2+ inclusion in education, health, and social services, Fae has trained thousands of educators and service providers in Canada and around the world. With Wisdom2Action, Fae has led projects focused on LGBTQ2+ youth and gender-based violence, anti-oppression in youth engagement, children’s rights, and school mental health.

Fae Johnstone, 24-years-old. Photo courtesy of Linda Xuan.

Abhayjeet Singh Sachal | Age: 17 | Location: British Columbia

At a young age, Abhayjeet realized that to get people to really care about an issue, it helps if they are personally connected to the cause. This understanding came about on an expedition to the Arctic in 2016 with the Students on Ice Foundation. On his trip, Abhayjeet made personal connections with locals and learned about some of the real challenges Indigenous communities face related to mental health, poverty, and the impacts of climate change. Back at school in Delta, British Columbia, Abhayjeet and his brother came up with the idea to launch Break the Divide, an international network of students who could connect, communicate, and create change on a number of different issues.

The two started their first chapters at their own school Seaquam Secondary and East Three Secondary in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Today there are over 500 members around the world connecting over Skype, creating friendships and ultimately learning about issues affecting the local community such as limited education, inequality, climate change, intergenerational trauma, and food insecurity. In late 2018, Abhayjeet was awarded $5,000 from Shaw’s 2018 Kindness Sticks Grant for promoting social inclusion and breaking down the stigmas against Indigenous communities. With this grant, Abhayjeet is expanding his programming and providing more accessible technology so students can continue to connect easily.

Abhayjeet Singh Sachal, 17-years-old.

Vishal Vijay | Age: 18 | Location: Ontario

When Vishal was 10 his entire life changed when he witnessed extreme poverty first hand on a trip to Rajasthan, India. Most notably, Vishal, based in Oakville, Ontario, witnessed a young girl about his age who looked underfed and begging on the street. Vishal didn’t understand how she could face extreme poverty when he didn’t. After arriving back home following another trip to India in 2012, Vishal and his younger brother, Ishan decided to spread the word about the injustices they witnessed. As they gained followers, they began a youth-run national non-profit organization they eventually called EveryChildNow, empowering kids to help other kids and provide children locally and globally with basic needs. Since then, they have raised over $100,000 and collected over 30,000 worth of items and supplies to provide children living in extreme poverty.

Vishal Vijay, 18-years-old.

Know of an inspiring, young person taking action and making a difference? Comment below or share your ideas with CanadaHelps on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Or, if you’re feeling inspired to give to one of your favourite charities empowering young people, browse charities supporting youth and children on CanadaHelps and give today!

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