Innovative, dedicated and socially conscious—Thor Richardson is a young professional with a mind for business and a heart for global change.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TED BELTON
Thor Richardson grew up understanding the meaning of responsibility.
It started at home. “Both my parents instilled in us the importance of giving back,” he says. As they gave back to the community, a young Thor watched—alongside little sister Celine—and absorbed moments-turned-lessons, destined to shape his character.
His parents didn’t leave it all up to osmosis, though. As Thor shares, early on in his life, they passed on a quote that “stuck” with the kids on through adulthood: “To whom much is given, much is also required.”
That’s how he ended up in Kenya this past summer, on a trip with ME to WE. He travelled there with his sister, who was being honoured by the community in Rongena, within the region’s Rift Valley. Thanks to her fundraising efforts, the locals will have a new farm, which will help feed 700 students daily. “The whole community came out, many of whom walked for miles for the ceremony just to thank her. They even presented her with a goat,” he gushes. “I was so proud to stand behind and watch so many people express their heartfelt gratitude to her.”
Whether abroad or at home in Toronto, “being mindful” of the greater world is an everyday way of life for Thor. “It’s easy to get caught up in your own world and fixate on your own problems,” he says. “Remembering that you’re part of a much bigger community with much bigger issues helps me keep things in perspective.”
To avoid forgetting this, he keeps a reminder wrapped around his wrist. “I wear these bracelets from Kenya to help me remember,” he says, flashing the accessories. The bracelet is called a Rafiki— Swahili for “friend”—and like its name suggests, it represent strength found in caring for one another.
The traditional Maasai beadwork that characterizes Rafikis is showcased at the entrance of the new WE Global Learning Centre (WGLC) in Toronto, outlining the words “Live WE.” For Thor, those words are especially weighty, not only because of the connection he feels with the mantra, but because his father is the namesake for the WGLC’s idea hub, The Hartley T. Richardson “empatheatre,” a 200-seat auditorium used as a virtual classroom for schools around the globe, when not playing host to local presentations and workshops with thought leaders. The building represents more than WE’s core values, it stands as a lasting reminder of the family values his parents championed at home. “That was another very proud moment,” Thor says of the WGLC ribbon cutting. “Dad has had a vision for the WGLC and has been passionate about realizing it for over 3 years. He believes in WE and their model for change, and the WGLC provides a permanent home and launch pad for all their work.”
As for Thor’s own work in the community, he’s focused on how the next generation can make a difference today. “I care deeply about youth entrepreneurship, more specifically access and empowerment for young entrepreneurs in underprivileged communities,” he declares. Thor references his own entrepreneurial experience and the role those close to him played in supporting his efforts. “I was very fortunate to grow up with parents and mentors who encouraged me to start businesses, beginning with a newspaper route when I was 14,” he says. “So many young people grow up without the ability or confidence to turn an idea into reality. A motivated young entrepreneur in a community is a very powerful force for good—Canada is full of them, and it’s our job to give them a chance to succeed.”
Read on to learn why Thor believes people of all ages can help make our country—and the world—a better place by helping one another.
Why is “we” stronger than “me?”
Every major achievement is always the result of a number of passionate people working together—greatness never happens in isolation. WE is the epitome of people working together; the good WE has achieved over the past 20 years is nothing short of remarkable.
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.
Understanding. Canada is incredibly diverse and becoming ever more so, and that is part of what makes our country so beautiful and unique. However, diverse people have diverse views and often very different ways of looking at things. The only way we can move forward collectively on the major issues facing our country is when we seek to understand other points of view… it doesn’t mean you have to agree, but understanding provides the foundation for a constructive solution.
Describe the core values of your ideal Canada.
Respect—for our history, traditions and each other. Integrity. Canada has a great reputation for doing the right thing, and I hope we never lose that. Leadership. We’ve come very far, and our society and economy is one of the most advanced in the world, but we must never sit back and rest on our laurels. The world needs Canada to lead.
What’s one action you want people to take in order to build a better country?
If everyone did something to better the world—in a way that meant something to them—the world would be a much better place. It really doesn’t matter what it is, but the first step is the most important.