At the age of twelve, author, fundraiser and Unicef Canada ambassador Bilaal Rajan is already a force to be reckoned with. An accomplished writer, fundraiser and children’s activist, his new book Making Change: Tips from an Underage Overachiever is an operating manual for making a difference, no matter what your age.
International Volunteer Week is taking place April 19 to 25, and to celebrate the occasion, Bilaal is spearheading his own initiative where he will go without shoes for the entire week. He is asking fellow students and the general public to do the same, or as long as they can, to better understand the struggles faced by underprivileged children in the developing world – many of whom cannot afford shoes, let alone attend school.
“From an early age,” says Rajan, “I could see young people around the world didn’t have it so good. I realized that something had to be done.” Since 2001, he has raised almost five million dollars for various causes. Four years ago, he was chosen as an official Child Ambassador for Unicef Canada.
Bilaal is also featured in a documentary, Yes We Can!, produced by In Sync video, which premiered on April 19 at the Sprockets Film Festival in Toronto, where the initiative officially kicked off. “This initiative is a call to action,” he says. “And when people ask me why I don’t have shoes, I’ll tell them because too many children throughout the world don’t either.”
Nigel Fisher, president of Unicef Canada, is on board. Also taking part is ORCA book publishers, award-winning novelist Eric Walters, members of the World Partnership Walk Committee, and most importantly, schools in Ottawa, Calgary and Montreal.
The initiative is also gaining momentum in countries as far away as Australia, Afghanistan, Great Britain, Switzerland, Thailand, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania. The word on the initiative is travelling fast!
Bilaal believes that in these challenging economic times, young people need to reach out even more, volunteer their time, and help those in need. “My goal,” he says, “is to inspire one million children to find their passion, take action and create a more caring world.
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