Razan Samara’s spoken truth: education on inclusivity will build a strong future Canada.
By Sarah Fox
Photography by Ted Belton
Razan Samara is one of many Canadians who immigrated to this country as a child. Now, 18-years-old, Razan—originally from Palestine—remembers the challenges of being a newcomer, but she also recalls the moment she began to feel like she was a part of a community—the day she discovered service work.
As Razan tells it, her path to change-making was led by WE Schools. It began in grade six, with an introduction to service-learning and the concept of volunteerism. “I was given this wonderful opportunity to see myself grow,” Razan says of the WE Schools program. “Who I am today, my happiness and my confidence comes from [that] experience.”
And the learnings continued. In middle school she was taught how local action could have global impact—a notion that would trigger an illuminating shift in perspective. “I realized that this was my avenue,” Razan shares. “This was how I could make friends, and this was how I could connect to people.” In that classroom, she realized that being a change-maker was about more than taking individual action, it was about building and supporting a network of like-minded people.
Once she hit high school, Razan put her revelation to task. At the time, her school’s existing WE club was exclusive to student council members; not acceptable to an inclusive-thinker like Razan. Soon, she opened the club to the entire student body and through her leadership, the students started to vote on the causes they wanted to support.
Razan voted for education. Her ballot led to the club raising money to help build a schoolhouse in Kenya. “Access to education has always deeply resonated with me,” she asserts.
Today, she’s looking to influence education on a local level by using knowledge to strengthen inclusivity in Canada. She explains, “I hope to work on projects that educate others and start positive dialogue about our diverse people to foster mutual understanding and respect.”
Last spring, Razan transformed her message into a spoken word piece, captured on video and projected at her school’s TEDx event. In a little over three minutes, the teen—using her own experience as a narrative driver—examined the meaning of a hijab to a Muslim woman.
Writing more spoken word pieces is one of many ways Razan plans to help others in the future. Another is attending medical school and eventually working with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). For now, she is continuing her service work through a summer internship at the Al-Qazzaz Foundation for Education and Development (QED), a non-profit that focuses on creating educational resources to strengthen communities.
Experiences like this have endowed Razan with valuable wisdom, which she thoughtfully applies to her everyday life. No doubt a fresh-faced change-maker, she is wise beyond her years when prescribing how to foster a more compassionate Canada, as we move past our country’s 150th into the future. “No matter who you want to help, you have to go into a community knowing that you have just as much to learn from them as they can learn from you,” she emphasizes. “Only when we accept that, will we be able to succeed together.”
Once a young girl who self-identified as a shy kid, joining the global community of change-makers has empowered Razan to step up as a confident leader. Read on to learn why she believes there is strength in unity.
Why is “we” stronger than “me?”
“We” is stronger than “me” simply because there is great strength in unity. Now, more than ever, we live in a nation that must stand together—not only for the rights of Canadians, but the fundamental rights of all people. Together, we make up a mosaic of unique ideas, perspectives, talents and passions. We can utilize our diversity to build a future filled with positive change.
What is the kindest action you’ve been on the receiving end of, and what about the gesture touched you personally?
The act of believing in someone is one of the kindest actions, and I’ve been very fortunate to have people in my life who believe in me. My family and friends have always been very supportive of my initiatives, and I’m always awestruck and touched by the gestures of the WE Charity community. Janay Boyce and Amanda Wand have always been encouraging, motivating and inspirational. Thank you for believing in me.
Fill in the blank: Moving forward into the next 150 years, our country needs [blank] in order to build a more caring and compassionate Canada.
Genuine understanding and openness to one another’s differences.
Throughout my experiences, I’ve learned to believe in striving towards genuine understanding and openness.
Describe the core values of your ideal Canada?
Equality, compassion, empathy, respect and openness. As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada and look forward to what the future has to hold, we must also recognize the people of our rich history beyond 150 years. We must work towards these core values for a Canada that provides equal opportunities for all its people, from Indigenous people to asylum-seekers. We must be compassionate and empathetic, respectful and open to everyone.
Nominate one person you believe is working to positively change the future of Canada.
I met Khadija Waseem at the National Youth Ambassador Caucus in Ottawa two years ago and was completely awed by her commitment to social justice. She has become an inspiration in my life, as well as a mentor. Khadija was a UN delegate representing Canada at the Millennium Campus Network conference, and she is a Daughters of the Vote delegate representing her riding for Equal Voice, [an organization dedicated to electing more women to political office]. Khadija is part of Canada’s cultural mosaic: a colour painting so vivid that it incorporates all backgrounds and colours. Her actions make this painting a little brighter, a little more welcoming and a little more cohesive, so it becomes a master piece for all Canadians.
As we work to make Canada a better country, what is one action you would like people to take?
Kindness is an action often overlooked, but powerful. It will help us build a better country together. Be kind to your neighbour and be kind to the environment, it will go a long way!
Take the pledge and help build a more caring and compassionate Canada.
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