Thank you Rabbi for inviting us to speak.
My name is Rachel Meyerowitz, and in the summer of 2014, I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah in Israel and here at Beth Torah.
Following that, as some of you may remember, I had the honor of speaking on Rosh Hashana about my Bat Mitzvah project. I spoke about attending WE DAY and deciding that I could use my Bat Mitzvah to help others. Instead of gifts, I asked for donations to FREE THE CHILDREN. After some fundraising and the incredible generosity of my friends and family, I had raised over $30,000.
I will let my Dad tell you more about FREE THE CHILDREN and WE DAY in a moment. First, I want to share with you the final chapter of my Bat Mitzvah journey.
This past summer, my family travelled to the Masai Mara region of Kenya, on one of FREE THE CHILDREN’S ME TO WE volunteer trips. Our days were long and filled with lasting memories. Alongside an amazing collection of families from across North America, we helped to build the surgical wing of a medical center; we carried water on our backs with Masai Mamas; and we visited communities helped by FREE THE CHILDREN’S 5 pillar sustainable model for change. I learned many important lessons that I can now share as the founder and President of the FREE THE CHILDREN club at Bialik.
But the highlight of this incredible adventure happened one afternoon when my family travelled separately from the group with Craig Kielberger, the founder of FREE THE CHILDREN, to a community called KIPSONGOL.
It was this community that my Bat Mitzvah donations had been used to build new schoolhouses for children that would otherwise not receive an education.
As I stepped out of the jeep and was met by hundreds of singing children, I COULD NOT CONTAIN MY EMOTIONS.
I CRIED WITH JOY AND PRIDE.
I HAD DONE SOMETHING IMPORTANT THAT WOULD FOREVER CHANGE THE LIVES OF THESE CHILDREN. MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY HAD GIVEN ME A PRICELESS GIFT THAT WILL BE WITH ME FOREVER.
Good evening. Rachel is a tough act to follow, but I would like TO TAKE A FEW minutes to share with you OUR family’s experience with FREE THE CHILDREN.
As parents, we strive to provide our children with opportunities and experiences that will enrich their lives:
-A strong Jewish IDENTITY
-A good education
-And lasting health and happiness.
Ultimately, we hope for our children to feel Confident and Capable as they enter the world; Our wish is that our children are Compassionate and Charitable.
However, as Rabbi Yossi said this morning, we cannot dictate our children’s DESTINATION. But we can be an example to our children and provide the tools needed for them to choose their own path.
To lead by example I have been actively involved with the UJA as well as other charities. This was working but the challenge for me was that these CHARITABLE acts were not integrated into my family life.
Everything changed when our family was invited to WE DAY and discovered FREE THE CHILDREN, an international charity started 20 years ago by a 12-year old boy from Thornhill.
In 1995, Craig Kielberger was inspired to quite LITERALLY “FREE CHILDREN” from child labour. Over the years, Craig and his brother Marc’s incredible perseverance and dedication to the cause has freed hundreds of thousands of children from the cycle of poverty by providing education and sustainable systems for change.
FREE THE CHILDREN’s model will continue to support children and families in the most at-risk areas of the developing world. As well, FREE THE CHILDREN has developed effective campaigns to address problems such as homelessness, hunger and bullying in Canada, the U.S. and the UK.
What is most important to me, as a parent, is that all of FREE THE CHILDREN’S programming is driven by youth. Although I have been welcomed as a champion of the organization, it is the young people that are provided the tools and the inspiration to TAKE SOCIAL ACTION, EMPOWER OTHERS AND TRANSFORM LIVES – INCLUDING THEIR OWN.
In OUR experience, FREE THE CHILDREN has taken on a whole new meaning as we watch Rachel and her siblings UNDERSTAND AND UNLEASH their POWER AND POTENTIAL in the world, FREE TO EMBARK ON THEIR OWN JOURNEY.
Each year, the thousands of children across Canada, the U.S. and the UK who are volunteering with FREE THE CHILDREN programs are celebrated for making a difference in their local and global communities.
The celebration is called WE DAY and it combines the energy of a live concert with the inspiration of incredible stories of leadership and change. Next week, the Air Canada Centre will be filled with 18,000 teenagers – louder than you have ever heard it for a Leafs or Raptors game – who have earned their ticket to be inspired by musicians, celebrities AND THEIR peers… all to celebrate THE POWER OF SERVICE.
Rachel has set the bar HIGH and has Matthew, Andi and Jordan ready to follow in her footsteps, and Robyn and I cannot wait to see where our children lead us next. Thank you and Shana Tovah.