Nicole and Faith are in twelfth grade at Westmount Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Canada. They are both 17 years old and enrolled in a World Issues course this year. The course taught them about political, environmental, economical, and social issues present in the world today. As a final assignment, they were tasked to make a difference and spread awareness about an important cause. They chose Helen Keller International’s Vitamin A Supplementation program. Inspired by their dedication, I wanted to hear Nicole and Faith’s story about their journey to becoming advocates for HKI. So, I reached out with a few questions.
HKI: How did you learn about Helen Keller International?
N&F: At first we found it very difficult to choose a cause because our generation can be very ignorant to what happens globally. Only being in the course for a couple of weeks we hadn’t gained enough knowledge to know what kinds of organizations were out there. Fortunately, Nicole’s sister Heidi is a political science major at Wilfred Laurier and informed us of Helen Keller International and forwarded their website to us. We were able to learn about what Helen Keller International is doing to fight child blindness and Vitamin A Deficiency. This was a cause we understood and we felt a lot of people probably weren’t aware so it was the perfect opportunity to inform them.
HKI: What inspired you to raise funds and awareness for HKI?
N&F: We feel a lot of people don’t know about the cause, all people really know is that there are a lot of children dying in Africa but people don’t know why. We felt people should know one of the main factors so they can learn something new and be inclined to donate. Often people our age don’t feel like giving because they aren’t getting anything out of it and feel blind to the cause. We wanted our friends and peers to donate because they want to. We also wanted to help these children in Africa because we have so much to offer, while many of these children have nothing. We believed it wasn’t fair and wanted to help because it makes us feel good to know that we are making a difference.
HKI: Of all the projects that HKI works on, what was it about vitamin A supplementation that resonated with you?
N&F: We were very surprised when we found out that kids were going blind in Africa because they weren’t getting proper nutrients. We wanted people to know what was going on and we wanted to teach people about it and raise awareness to make it something that people know and understand.
HKI: What was the reaction your project received from your fellow high school students? What did people think about VAS?
N&F: A lot of people were unaware about VAS because no one had ever told them about it or that it was even possible. At first, people doubted the information we were giving them until they allowed us to explain how it happens, why it happens, and what HKI is doing to prevent it. This also allowed other people to overhear and come over and ask us to inform them. People were also inclined to give that one dollar knowing that they just saved one life, because it was that simple. When huge amounts of money are needed to support one child, people aren’t as willing to give because they see the outcome as saving the child nearly impossible and feel that their one dollar won’t make a difference. But when they know all it was is giving one dollar they wanted to give because they felt more important.
HKI: What was the biggest thing you learned through this process?
N&F: It is unfortunate but teenagers don’t want to donate unless they get something out of it. We had to lure them with donuts, sour keys, and Starbucks for them to come to our booth so we could hand them a brochure, inform them about the issue and finally they would donate because they knew what they were donating to and they were getting something out of giving. After informing more people we also found that we became more comfortable with the information we were giving and weren’t afraid to call people over to our booth. It was definitely a huge learning experience.
HKI: What careers do you both hope to pursue after high school?
N: I recently accepted an offer to Carleton University Communications Studies Program that I will begin in the fall of 2013. I don’t know what I really want to do in life but I know that I want to make a difference and do something that I’m interested in and that makes me happy. I also feel communications is a good background to have after I finish four years of schooling and a lot will probably change in four years so at least this degree will leave a lot of doors open for me.
F: I am still awaiting responses from universities, but I would really love to go to Ryerson University for their Child and Youth Care program. My goal is to either work with troubled youth, or to become a teacher. I have always had an interest in working with children because of my many years of experience of being a camp counselor. I am very excited to see what my future holds, and I feel that Helen Keller International has made me more interested in working with children in the future.