How inspiring young leaders pay it forward to help others

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Pay it forward is the concept of responding to kindness by being kind to someone else.  

In other words, you pay it forward instead of paying it back to the person who initially helped or supported you in some way. This action is designed to inspire a ripple effect of kindness that continues to grow, get stronger and create real impact for all who experience it.  

The idea of paying it forward is strongly connected to the work we do with youth as we believe young people can transform the world if they are equipped and empowered with the knowledge and skills to help themselves as well as others. 

When young people become mentors and role models, they foster transformative change that can benefit so many – and no one knows this better than Aiza and Raiha.  

These two inspiring young women are supported by Plan International Canada and have become leaders in their communities who are not only giving back but also inspiring others to do the same.   

Aiza started her own charity in grade 10

For Aiza, a 22-year-old from Oakville, showing kindness to others has been a central part of her life since she was very young and became aware of the inequalities within her own community.   

“The idea that I could share what I had, whether that be my time, passion or voice to serve those around me was my driving force,” says Aiza.   

iza, founder of Teddybear Foundation, sits with boxes of donation items and a teddy bear

During her Grade 10 year, Aiza was challenged to take action on an initiative of her choice, and this resulted in something truly special – the launch of her own charitable foundation.  

“Aiza’s Teddybear Foundation was a culmination of many years of reflections on the issues that affect youth,” she says. “We started offering support in the form of repurposed teddies and warm clothing items. Within a few weeks, the calls started to pour in. Individuals were candidly sharing their stories with us. I would step out of class to answer calls and record donation requests on top of my homework.”  

Since then, Aiza’s Teddybear Foundation has distributed hundreds of thousands of donations. But her passion for helping others – especially children – doesn’t end there.  

Aiza holds big bundle of backpacks for donating to youth in need

As a member of Plan International Canada’s Speakers Bureau, Aiza found a community of like-minded young people who were creating their own grassroot organizations and using their voices for good.  “For the first time in my life, I was referred to as a children’s rights advocate and public speaker. I was offered platforms to tell stories and amplify the voices of the children that we work with.”  

Empowered by this peer group and with the mentorship of Plan International Canada, Aiza launched a learning and leadership development program through her Teddybear Foundation for youth across Canada to encourage dialogue about the issues many children face. 

 “It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to share what I have learned with this group of budding activists and guide them as they enhance their public speaking and advocacy skills,” she says.  

When it comes to paying forward the mentorship that Aiza has been empowered by, she says: “The mentorship and support I received was paramount in building my self-confidence and reaffirming my belief in the work that I do for children. I hope that I can pay it forward by being a similar beacon of hope in another aspiring activist’s life like this organization was in mine.”  

group of girls wearing ‘gender equality starts with us’ shirts speaking on stage

Raiha championed change at her university

Raiha, 19, is another youth supported by Plan International Canada who knows how to pay it forward by bringing awareness and solutions to the barriers that many face when it comes to accessing menstrual health products.  

As president of the University of Regina’s Champions of Change Club, Raiha and her peers have been leading a menstrual equity movement on campus and in her community. “Founding and leading a Champions of Change club has allowed me to be more knowledgeable and more confident in myself as an advocate,” says Raiha.  

This past March, Raiha and her club successfully launched the “Period Stations” project to help provide free period products in campus bathrooms.  

Raiha stands next to a period stations that make menstrual hygiene products accessible on campus

After half a year of collaboration and discussion between Raiha’s club and the school administration, the university acknowledged the demand for free period products and agreed to implement 12 permanent dispensers in women’s and gender neutral washrooms across campus.  

“What inspires me to make a change in my community are the people I am surrounded by. I’ve grown up with strong role models like my grandmother and mother who taught me how to persevere through adversity and be the change I wish to see.”  

Empower young leaders like Aiza and Raiha

As we’ve seen, youth like Aiza and Raiha have the power and potential to make the world a better place.  

Today, you can help empower Canadian girls to speak up and inspire others to pay it forward by supporting our youth programming with a Gift of Hope.  

This gift offers growth opportunities to girls in Canada by funding trainings, workshops and inclusive sports programs to develop public speaking skills, self-esteem, knowledge and confidence to lead. It also extends seats at major conferences, so girls can make their voices heard.  

Learn more about empowering girls in Canada

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