Teenage Peacemaker

Sabrina Byrnes / Metroland

Atiyya Bacchus, age 16, won a YMCA Peace Medallion Award in Canada last year for her extensive volunteer work and activism within her local community.

From the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s website:

“A grade 11 student at Pickering High School, Atiyya spends time each week as a mentor at the Women’s Multicultural Resource Centre, providing support and information to teens who’ve recently immigrated to Canada. She’s also part of a reading circle at the Pickering Library and donates her time each week to assist lower-level readers enhance their skills.

Atiyya is a member of her school’s Environmental Club and started a “Me to We” program to get more students involved in activism. Through starting projects in the community, Atiyya has been able to inspire others to think about how they can make an impact on both a local and global level. She had the opportunity last year to travel to Guyana and volunteer with a pharmacist at an AIDS clinic in a poor community.

Every year Atiyya raises funds for the Heart and Stroke Foundation through various community events, and is personally raising funds through popcorn sales at her school to build a well in Sierra Leone. She’s also working on two new initiatives: a crocheting circle for young mothers to have a place to interact socially and a pop can tab drive to help build a wheelchair for someone in need. Atiyya believes that even though the things we do locally may seem small, they have a larger impact globally when more people do their part.”

Two quotes of hers from a write up should be troubling to anyone living in Guyana:

“Here people are encouraged to volunteer, but in Guyana that doesn’t happen because they don’t have the resources. Here I have so many resources at my fingertips. I can access so much and that means there’s so much I can do.”

“We had no libraries in Guyana so there was no way to get books unless you bought them.”

Other than that, it’s wonderful to know of motivated Guyanese teens – even the ones who aren’t here. When asked why she does so much, she replied, “I say if you don’t stand up for what you believe in, and what you think is right, who will? If everyone thinks it’s normal to just do nothing then nothing will get done. I hope people will look at me and say if Atiyya can do it, I can do it. Because if you don’t have that motivation, if you don’t wake up and say ‘I can make a change today’, then what’s going to get you out of bed in the morning?”

Good grief, young lady. I need an extra large dose of whatever you’re having!

Seriously though, I hope she continues the good work and maybe comes back someday to inspire peers in her native country.

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