In celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary, WE asked remarkable Canadians the question: What are you doing to make our country a more caring and compassionate place?
Lover of language, advocate for technology and youth representative, Sara Abdessamie demands her voice be heard.
Even at 14-years-old, Sara didn't wait around for opportunity to find her: she created her own.
It began with a move eastward the year before. Sara moved from Sherbrooke, Quebec to Fredericton, New Brunswick. Not long after her arrival, she set off on a quest to make a difference in her new town.
"I went to see [the local radio station], and I asked if there was an opportunity for a 14-year-old girl to have a regular show," Sara recalls. CJPN-FM had never come across such a query, but decided there was really no reason not to put this tenacious young woman on the air.
For three years, Sara and her friend Danielle Jewett hosted Radio-Jeunesse and discussed everything from science and technology to the happenings of the town. In a nod to her personal passion, bilingualism, Sara notes that the pair especially enjoyed talking about Semaine provinciale de la fierté française (SPFF), a week for New Brunswick's capital to celebrate French language and culture. "I think promotion is a big step to showing how important bilingualism is," asserts the teen.
Now 18-years-old, Sara is a student at Dalhousie University. In between classes, she continues to work diligently to support the causes close to her heart. When speaking of these causes, bilingualism always comes first.
"It just opens so many doors," Sara says. "I think bilingualism brings communities together. In French we say sentiment d'appartenance. It's the feeling you get with other people that are fighting for the same cause. You are stronger together."
Last year, the Medical Sciences student added a new item to her long list of accomplishments: Prime Minister's Youth Council member. For Sara, this chance has proven the ideal platform to flex a trusty three-pronged attack on socio-political issues: talk to people, hear their concerns and elevate their voices.
Representing youth like herself is a point of pride. "I get to meet other youth that are trying to make a difference and hear their opinions about so many issues," Sara says. "Youth empowerment is something I try to work on every single day."
Now that Sara has tapped into a direct line to the government, she hopes to strengthen the bonds between youth and government, while tackling issues including the environment, mental health and of course, bilingualism. Tack on to this special appearances–including an upcoming April speaker spot at The Walrus Talks in Fredericton–and it's easy to deduce that Sara believes in the power of conversation. "Talk to people," she suggests. "Sometimes, you just have to make the first move."
Read on to hear more from Sara on bilingualism, youth empowerment and how green technologies can better the future of Canada.
Why is "we" stronger than "me?"
I can't help but hear the French word oui, when I hear the word "we." Together they mean anything is possible–"Yes, let's do it." Everyone has something to fight for, something that is true to their heart. When you find the people that have the same interests as you, it is natural to come together to make a difference; it helps you move forward. That's why I think "we" is stronger than "me."
What is the kindest action you've been on the receiving end of, and what about the gesture touched you personally?
I was 13 when I first moved to New Brunswick, and I did not speak any English. On my first day of school, I was nervous I would be ignored, but that was not the case. Everyone came up to me and introduced themselves. When I was trying to learn English, they were all so helpful, too. Learning a new language is embarrassing and really hard, but they gave me the tools to learn new words and did not judge me at all. That was one of the kindest things–they approached me when I was not in my comfort zone.
Fill in the blank: Moving forward into the next 150 years, our country needs [blank] in order to build a more caring and compassionate Canada.
To hear more about what youth have to say.
We're already making a lot of big steps. At events like WE Day, we're empowering youth as speakers, but I really think we should continue down that path to [further] acknowledge them and the great work they're doing–to continue to give youth a voice.
Nominate one person you believe is working to positively change the future of Canada.
There's so many of them, oh my goodness. There are so many youth that are fighting for Indigenous rights, one of them is Ashley Rose Cummings. She tries to make sure that Indigenous people are being heard. Reconciliation is still happening, and she's such a great advocate for it. She's incredible.
What small action have you taken in present day to help secure a brighter future for our country tomorrow?
As a part of the Prime Minister's Youth Council, I'm representing so many great Canadians. I try to move around the country to talk to as many people as possible to ensure their voices are heard. I go back to Fredericton quite often to meet other youth that are trying to make a difference and hear their opinions about so many issues, like access to education, mental health or la Francophonie [an international organization representing countries and regions with an affiliation with French language and/or culture], which are things that I'm really passionate about, too.
As we work to make Canada a better country, what is one action you would like people to take?
I think green energy is really important, and green technologies are the next steps we need to take. Once you have them, they are actually more economic than when you don't… it's just the big step of changing that costs a lot. Long term, it becomes less and less expensive. I think that's going to be the next step for Canada: to adopt green technology.
This story is part of Living WE, a toolkit of ideas and inspiration for Canadians. It was created by WE, a movement that brings people together to create positive social change both locally and globally.