Dalal Al-Waheidi and her daughter Zeina with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at National WE Day in Ottawa in 2015. Credits: Photography by Scott Ramsay
"It is when you give of yourself that you truly give."
When my 19-month-old daughter Zeina is old enough to read, I'll put this favourite quote by poet Kahlil Gibran on our fridge to remind her of our family values. I hope to teach her that everyone has a responsibility to give back.
On October 19, the first WE Day Family will present this invitation to hundreds of families across Ontario. With this inaugural event, WE Day, our annual celebration of young change-makers, is set to broaden its audience to engage families.
Parents know that a better world begins at home.
As a (fairly new) parent myself, I can now appreciate how hopes for your children can become your entire life. I understand more than ever the power of giving children the tools to be active citizens. And how those tools can help achieve your hopes—that they will grow up strong, compassionate and (relatively) well-adjusted. Research suggests that youth who volunteer are more likely to empathize with others, value their education and develop the leadership skills that are key to success in later years. Volunteering also boosts civic engagement. Zeina is only 19 months, still a bit young to start voting or taking on leadership positions. But you're never too young to start changing the world.
This year, Zeina and I will trick-or-treat for canned goods—not just candy—for WE Scare Hunger. We'll use the occasion, and her superhero costume, to collect non-perishables for our local food bank. Thousands of families across Canada participate in this campaign each year, spending quality time together, making spooky Halloween memories and supporting a cause at the same time.
Giving back isn't about adding to your to-do list. It's about infusing daily activities with a sense of awareness that the small choices we make have an impact on others. When you sit down to dinner, bring along the newspaper and talk about the issues in the headlines. When you're shopping for groceries, pick up a few extra items for a homeless shelter in your community. Some nights when I put Zeina to bed, I take a fairytale break and tell her the story of a local hero, a police officer or a Good Samaritan who made the news. Or better yet, the story of a young volunteer—I'm lucky to meet many of them through my work. I want to help her dream about the real leader she could be, in addition to the imaginary world inhabited by royalty in castles. Although she won't yet understand the message, I'm excited for her to be in the presence of some of the WE Day Family speakers we've got lined up. From Lilly Singh, who built a quirky YouTube empire as a "superwoman." Or Canada's own Man in Motion, Rick Hansen, an activist for accessibility inclusivity. One day I'll tell her that, as a baby, she was in the front row to hear Chris Hadfield's tales from outer space and Margaret Trudeau's message about mental health awareness. And she'll hear from the youth volunteers who rally together around causes that truly matter to them, from hunger and homelessness in their neighbourhoods to girls' education overseas.
I have high hopes for her first WE Day Family experience.
I've been with WE since 2002, and have watched the organization grow from thousands of students to a global movement of more than two million young leaders taking action in their local and global communities.
I'm proud to introduce WE Day Family as I start to grow my own.
Learn how to join the WE movement as a family or be part of the WE Day Family event at we.org/wedayfamily.
Dalal Al-Waheidi is the executive director of WE Day Global. A Palestinian born and raised in Kuwait, Dalal and her family fled to the Gaza Strip when she was 12, during the post-Gulf War period. She is now a Canadian citizen, mother and girls' education advocate. In this monthly blog for CanadianLiving.com, Dalal explores what it means to Live WE, a commitment to making a difference every day, through issues surrounding active citizenship, raising socially conscious kids and women and children's rights.