Speakers at the ACCESS Charity Youth Making a Difference Conference from left to right: Abid Virani, founder of the I Have Hope in the Fight against AIDS foundation, Akhina Mooken, Miss India-Canada 2011, Daniel Francavilla, ACCESS founder, and Aian Binlayo, student trustee for the DPCDSB. Photo by Adanna Chigbo

Youth ‘desire to inspire’ at ACCESS Charity conference

By  Adanna Chigbo, Youth Speak News
  • May 2, 2012

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - As part of the Change the World campaign for National Volunteer Week, ACCESS Charity ran its fourth annual Youth Making A Difference Conference at the Blessed Trinity Catholic Centre in Mississauga. 

In line with the conference’s theme “Desire to Inspire,” the speakers shared their own stories as inspiration for the 180 students who took part in the April 26 event. ACCESS (Allowing Children a Chance at Education) is one of Southern Ontario’s largest youth-run charities.

“Words are great, but without them being translated into action, they mean nothing,” said Aian Binlayo, student trustee for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

He congratulated the students present on taking a major step in their journey to become agents of change by coming out to meet with like-minded individuals at the conference.

“We have the action, we have the vision; so it is up to us to make a decision,” said Binlayo, a volunteer journalist for The Toronto Star.

Keynote speaker Abid Virani, founder of I Have Hope in the Fight Against AIDS, spoke about his motivation to establish his educational organization: the continuous support of his friends and his experience encountering children from the poorer areas of Uganda.

Recounting the visit that changed his perspective on life, Virani emphasized the importance of taking action when faced with problems that need solutions. His trip to Uganda led him to do something about problems he saw in the world.

“You are not what you say you are,” said Virani. “You are what you do.” 

On a note of caution, he pointed out that although role models can be sources of inspiration, they should not become the goals of that inspiration.

“You can idolize them but in the end you have to be yourself.”

Some students were surprised to find that Virani, a previous winner of Canada’s top 20 under 20 award, had once felt as powerless as they did in the face of some of the world’s problems.  

“Sometimes you want to make a difference and sometimes you don’t know exactly what to do to achieve that and he felt like that too,” said Daniel Da Silva, a Grade 9 student from St. Roch High School in Brampton, Ont. “He has inspired me in my own goal of promoting the acceptance of people the way they are. I may not know exactly how it will end, but I can start by doing something — no matter how small.”

For Ritika Chakrabarty, the camaraderie among those present at the event motivated her.

“Everyone here is trying to find some sort of way to find themselves and inspiration is severely lacking in our youth. The amount of people who showed up at this event reminds me that there is still hope,” said the Grade 12 student from St. Francis Xavier High School in Mississauga.

Although the majority of the attendees were secondary school students, there were also elementary schools students in attendance. Alyssa Hainey, a Grade 7 student at Brampton’s Our Lady of Providence School, talked about her most memorable speaker from the conference and how he had inspired her.  “(Virani’s) personal experience kind of led me to the path where I want to represent my school and my faith,” she said.

“Now I want to look around to see what is going on in the society and what I can do to help. I also want to travel to Haiti when I get to high school.” 

To find out more about ACCESS, email info@accesscharity.ca.

(Chigbo is a first-year communication, culture and information technology student at the University of Toronto Mississauga.)

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