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Aiming for Action
Our Aiming for Action program rewards four people between the ages of 14 and 30 for their valuable efforts and achievements advocating for the environment with a grant of up to $1,500, among other prizes. Kehkashan, recipient of the award in 2022, invites you to retrace her journey as an agent of change!
I was born in the year of the new millennium, the same year the global fraternity embraced the Earth Charter and world leaders came together at the United Nations to adopt the Millennium Development Goals. Coincidentally, in the same month of June when the Earth Charter was adopted, I was born on 5th June, World Environment Day. This shaped my mindset that my duty on Earth was to become an eco-warrior – someone who would help people and the planet.
Discovering my changemaking potential
As a young person whose life’s mission is to empower those who are the farthest first, I am frequently confronted with cathartic moments of realization where I recognize an issue and feel compelled to do something to solve it. The first of many such moments occurred more than a decade ago when, as a seven-year-old, I saw the image of a dead bird with its belly full of plastic. I still remember how I squirmed with shock, trying to fathom the bird’s agony as it must have choked to death. That moment spurred me to take action – it made me realize the copious amount of plastic that was a part of our everyday lives; realize that there was something inherently wrong with this world for such an innocent creature to suffer through so much pain. Yet, most of us were too myopic to even notice its impact.
Photo credits : 2021 Earth Day Canada Campaign
It was also around the same time that I attended a lecture by environmentalist Robert Swan, whose words, “The greatest threat to the planet is the belief that someone else will save it”, resonated deeply with me and spurred me to celebrate my 8th birthday by planting my first tree. Thereafter, I embarked on my second act of conservation, by launching a “no plastic campaign” involving my school and community, that set me on my crusade for social and environmental justice.
Embarking on my green journey
When I was nine years old, I had taken part in a Walk for Water to raise awareness about the water crisis around the world. I vividly remember promising myself that one day, I would do something to solve this crisis and bring about real change. My journey has always been about daring to dream, and then turning that dream into a reality. I had my next ‘moment of truth’ when, at the age of 12, I was one of the youngest delegates at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the largest sustainable development conference of the time, and realized that children, youth, and other vulnerable communities were being left out of the sustainability dialogue and so, on my return home, I founded Green Hope Foundation, and every single day since then, for the past 10 years, I have been working to reduce inequalities based on the principles of sustainable development.
My mission, through Green Hope Foundation, is to create a world where no one is left behind and my work reaches out to those who are the farthest first, using education for sustainable development as a powerful tool providing them with the knowledge, behaviors and skills to elevate them out of the vicious cycle of poverty and exploitation. As a partner to the Toronto District School Board, Canada’s largest, we provide environmental education to its 600 schools and 250,000 students.
Photo credits : Kehkashan Basu / Green Hope Foundation
I established a Green Hope Foundation Club at the University of Toronto, through which I conducted sustainability awareness conferences, cleanup and tree planting events, engaging hundreds of students who have also contributed to our international projects, including leading a delegation in 2019 to Bali, where we conducted sustainability workshops for children in orphanages as well as for marginalised women. Our team also donated books, clothes, and toys for these vulnerable children.
Thus, at Green Hope Foundation, we believe that every young person has the innate ability to create positive change within and beyond their communities. More importantly, we understand that every small action can make a big difference. Taking actions for protecting the planet can be as simple as growing your own food in your backyard or terrace and making your own compost, segregating your waste for recycling and following a zero-waste policy, encouraging your family to install solar panels on your rooftop and even spreading the word amongst your friends about why it is so important to take care of Mother Earth. Above all, we need to be passionate and honest about the work we do for the planet. If every single one of us takes one small step every day to protect our Mother Earth, then we will be able to create a healthier and more sustainable world for all.
Photo credits : Kehkashan Basu / Green Hope Foundation
Turning dreams into actions
What began as a 12-year old’s dream has now evolved into a United Nations accredited global social innovation platform that provides people of all ages, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds the knowledge and the tools to drive change. My journey is testament to the fact that every young person has the potential to become a change-maker. All they need is the self-belief to move ahead.
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