How a childhood trip inspired this Canadian activist to help youth around the world
Published Monday, May 10, 2021 12:15PM EDT Last Updated Monday, May 10, 2021 12:19PM EDT
TORONTO -- In 2012, Vishal Vijay, then 12, returned home from a family trip to India determined to make a change.
For the first time in his life, Vijay had witnessed the realities of extreme poverty and saw first-hand the impact it has on children.
Alongside his brother, Ishan, and two of their friends, Vijay decided to create a small group dedicated to supporting and empowering young people.
“Over the past few years we’ve been able to grow this group to become a non-profit called EveryChildNow, that focuses on two things,” says Vijay. “We focus on youth empowerment and we focus on child poverty alleviation, so providing children and their family with their five basic needs: education, food, clean drinking water, shelter and health care.”
The organization empowers young people to follow their passions and helps equip them with the tools they need to not only succeed in their goals, but help other children along the way.
Since its inception in 2012, EveryChildNow has raised over $100,000 and features monthly campaigns and volunteer opportunities all dedicated to engaging youth and enacting meaningful social change.
Domestically the organization supports Canadian children through things like school supply donation programs and educational workshops.
EveryChildNow has also launched international campaigns and made donations of school supplies and water wells to India and Sierra Leone, as well as other countries.
Vijay says that the COVID-19 pandemic has really shifted the focus of EveryChildNow towards education and health-care support for Canadian students.
“When the pandemic first hit we were really noticing this divide that was starting to occur in education, where many children didn’t have access to the resources and support that they needed at home,” Vijay says. “I decided to reach out to my personal network and we were able to onboard more than 30 individuals who signed up to be tutors and as a part of this, we decided to launch a program called Social Educating.”
Social Educating connects children in Grades 4 to 8 with university students who can assist them with homework and provide them with free, virtual learning support.
“I know that COVID has affected people in so many different ways,” Vijay says. “Honestly it’s given so much perspective to what’s important and it’s helped me really prioritize my education as well.”
Vijay is currently studying business at Western University.
“I’m going to be working in consulting, so really helping to solve large problems that businesses are facing,” Vijay says. “I think that for me, that’s really exciting because I get to work at the intersection of strategy and social impact and really try to integrate more purpose-driven missions into businesses that I work with.”