Photography by Linda Roy/Ireva Photography
Meet the Canadian Living 12th annual Me to We winner for the We Charity Youth Award, Xavier West.
Name: Xavier West
Where he's from: Welland, Ont.
Award: We Charity Youth Award
Xavier West had listened intently as public speaker and Me to We (formerly Free the Children) cofounder Craig Kielburger told a story about a visit to Brazil. Kielburger recalled being invited to play a game of soccer with a group of local kids: When the kids went to get the "ball," they returned with a discarded water bottle. The story struck a chord with Xavier, who was 10 at the time. He realized he could ask his parents for a new soccer ball any time—and it made him want to help those who couldn't afford the things he could.
That Christmas, instead of asking for toys, Xavier asked Santa to deliver a goat to a needy family. And when he learned that Me to We could build a new school in Kenya for $8,500, he set his sights on raising the money. "I get a lot out of education, and I feel that other kids should have education as well," he says. He became a one-person fundraising machine, collecting pop cans for the scrap yard, hosting garage sales and mowing grass. He also started a Facebook page to request donations, creating campaigns in which he would ask friends to donate $1 a week throughout the year.
It took four years, but Xavier finally raised enough money to build a school—even when the price went up to $10,000 midway through his fundraising efforts. But that wasn't the end of his work. This past summer, Xavier's grandfather rewarded him with a trip to Kenya. He travelled with his mother, sister and grandmother to help build a Me to We school, and he saw the impact of his work. "The idea isn't a handout but a hand up—they're trying to create a sustainable community," he says. "I was really honoured to be there with them."
Meet our 2016 Me to We Award winners for more inspirational stories like Xavier's.