Inspired by WE, Adrienne Gill brings together her family’s musical talents and hosts a coffeehouse fundraiser to support health programming in Ecuador.
By Jesse Mintz
Adrienne always wondered if she could match her older sisters’ knack for making a difference.
When her chance came, the 11-year-old leaned on her family’s natural harmony—and long history of giving back.
“My sisters are really big social justice leaders,” she says of siblings Nadia, 16, and Charlotte, 13, who have both belonged to WE clubs since middle school.
Adrienne recounts dinners spent discussing her sisters’ latest projects with WE—fundraisers for those experiencing homelessness in Winnipeg, rallies for women’s rights and environmental campaigns in their school. For as long as she can remember, these issues and causes percolated through her home, forming the backdrop for family discussions.
“They gave me that passion,” she explains in a voice stronger than her small frame would suggest. When she got the opportunity to join a WE club at École Viscount Alexander and attend WE Day, she jumped at the chance. That evening, she returned home energized, eager to do something big, and her passion found fertile ground. Her mom, Jennifer, suggested putting the family’s musical talents to creative use in a coffeehouse concert.
With an idea of the what firmly in place, the fivesome—by then, their father, Brady, was involved as well—set out to research the why. They turned to WE’s website to find an issue that spoke to them and quickly learned about the lack of proper health care services in rural Ecuador. In this region plagued by dirty water, inadequate medical supplies and a poor public health infrastructure, WE runs workshops for teachers, families and community leaders to identify and treat common health risks.
“Adrienne’s coffeehouse quickly became a family affair,” says Jennifer, flanked on either side by her daughters. She laughs at the suggestion that this family focus was intentional, as Adrienne offers a meek “sorry” and blushes. “It’s been a great side benefit of their involvement, having something very specific we can work on as a family,” she says, beaming proudly at her daughters.
Nadia took the stage to sing. Charlotte emceed the entire evening. Jennifer and Brady performed as part of a brass quartet. And the whole family played to the tune of the youngest Gill, who not only played violin but made sure the entire evening ran smoothly, soliciting help from WE club members and writing to local businesses for donations and prizes.
Between the first coffeehouse event, a board game night, an online donation campaign and a repeat open-mic fundraiser in February, the family—led by Adrienne—have raised over $6,500 to support health programming in Ecuador. The sisters descend into self-conscious laughter as Jennifer talks about all of this. “[Service] is something we incorporate into our family life and I guess it’s paying off,” she explains with quintessential modesty. “The kids have made [it] a natural part of their life.”
As for Adrienne, who’s long looked up to her sisters for their activism, she now counts herself proudly among them when it comes to creating change.
“We’ve always been this close,” she says, looking from Nadia to Charlotte. “But being a part of WE as a family is something we can all share.”
As friends and neighbours streamed in for the coffeehouse fundraiser in March 2017, sheltering themselves from the winter cold, Adrienne watched the space she’d visited so many times before transform into a stage to showcase her passion. It was a family project months in the making come alive—and proof that anyone can make a difference with WE.