Swift Current's Shawn Wiskar had the humbling opportunity to be acknowledged during We Day in Saskatoon earlier this month for his hard work on last year's Five Days for Change campaign at the Swift Current Comprehensive High School.
We Day is a youth conference centered around making the world a better place, with the Saskatoon event hosting speakers from all over the world. This year, Martin Luther King III, Magic Johnson, and the founders of Free the Children, Craig and Marc Kielburger, spoke to the youth.
The conference is held across Canada annually, and this year was Saskatchewan's second time hosting the event.
"We Day is all about empowering youth, and making youth realize that they can be a positive social change in their communities and globally in the world," said Wiskar. "When we come together, we really are the generation that cares and by doing this, we are definitely making the world a better place. We Day is really great that way."
Every year at We Day, certain individuals are acknowledged for significant things they have done in their communities.
Wiskar was one of those individuals to be highlighted for the planning and effort put into the homeless shelter fundraiser last year for Five Days for Change.
"Last year when they highlighted youth they just sort of mentioned them and they didn't come up on stage. So it was a really big surprise to be welcomed up on stage and for them to give me that recognition. And of course, all my friends from different communities and everyone I saw that was cheering for me, it was really cool."
Although Wiskar spearheaded the Five Days for Change campaign, he says it was successful because the teamwork put into it.
"The 10 people that I took up with me on stage, besides Rachel Hussey, Shelby Piechotta and Hayley Modien, were all people that did the homeless Five Days for Change with me. I feel like a lot of it was a group effort. I spent a lot of time planning and invested probably two months of my time into it, but they also deserved to be up there with me."
A ticket cannot be purchased to attend We Day, one must earn it.
"To get into We Day you don't pay for a ticket, you have to earn a ticket. So you have to complete a local and a global challenge. To get into We Day, our school does a lot of different things. We do food drives locally, we do different fundraisers where we sell stuff, just trying to raise money for different charities. Then globally, this year we did Free the Children charities. We did a button campaign where we sold buttons, and we had our penny drive last year which was very successful. We took in about 17 bags of pennies. "The Comp likes to donate to as many different charities as we can." Shawn explained.
"We donate to The Salvation Army quite a lot with our food drives. Our big one we did last year is we donated to the Southwest Street Culture Foundation Committee. They're trying to build a homeless shelter in Swift Current, which is one of the charities that I'm affiliated with. We raised $16,000. The shelter right now is in phase one, which is their prepping and figuring out what they need to do to make the shelter feasible and able to go up."
Not only is Wiskar a growing social change activist and philanthropist, but he also had the chance to experience first hand the concerning issues in Kenya last summer.
"This summer, me and 23 other students got the chance of a lifetime to go to Kenya through the Potash Corp. One of the girls won their trip at We Day by luck of the draw, and then another girl from Calgary filled out a survey and won. The rest of us had the challenge of writing a 500 word essay or make a creative project to say why we think food security is important to us, and what we do in our community to help.
"I did my video on our homeless project, but this was before we started, so I had the goal of raising $2,000, and we ended up beating that. The Potash Corp paid for the trip, so everything was absolutely free which was really awesome.
"We got to go over there and we got to experience what people living under two dollars a day experience. They have very small homes and they live off what they can get. Just to see the issues like the lack of clean drinking water and the lack of access to education, and then even how moving on from primary school, because primary school is free in Kenya, but how high school is really for a select few. Moving on to high school determines whether you are going to have a successful future or if you are going to live in poverty. Being able to be immersed in that culture was life changing."
The 24 individuals chosen to go to Kenya for two weeks worked with the villages to promote positive change and make a difference in the lives of Kenyan's.
"In Kenya, we helped build a school in one of the villages. Because we were the Potash Group, we were the first group ever that got to work on any farms in Kenya. So we worked on four different farms and that was awesome. The founder of Free the Children, Craig Kielburger, he actually came and worked on a farm one day with us."
Wiskar has a bright future ahead of him, and he says the trip to Kenya affirmed his goals as an activist.
"I would go on another trip again in a heartbeat. I definitely want to go back to Kenya at some point in my life, because that was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. This summer, I'm actually going to be going to Arizona for facilitation training. Basically, they prepare you to become an activist and then how you can help lead other people. Next year at university I'm going into Human Justice studies. I'd eventually like to go into politics, but the main goal is to make a change in the world."