What does it mean to be a WE Family?
Six-year-old Nikki and her mother, Chantal Saville, were walking in downtown Toronto one afternoon when they came across a person sleeping in street. Nikki had never before seen a homeless person, and her first reaction to seeing the older woman lying in a filthy sleeping bag, over a grate, was revulsion. The pair could easily have walked past without a word, but Chantal saw the encounter as an opportunity to start a conversation with her daughter about an important local issue.
“I hoped she would be open to talking about the woman we had seen, and the reasons why people become homeless – and she was,” Chantal recalls. “What surprised me was how ready she was to start thinking about helping them.”
Chantal calls it their “a-ha!” moment. That day, they took their first steps as change-makers. Simply by recognizing an issue in their community, and beginning to talk about ways they could make it better, they became a WE Family.
One of the really amazing things about being a WE Family is that doing good will make you feel good. Studies show that taking action on behalf of others gives you a boost of feel-good hormones, creating a feeling of well-being and happiness that’s been called a “helper’s high.”
Another great thing is there’s no one way to be a WE Family. You choose an issue or cause that you’re all passionate about, then work together to decide how you want to get involved. Whether you can devote a few hours each week, or only one afternoon a year, your actions make a difference.
“Sometimes you just do something because it feels right and you go where it takes you. We didn’t know what we were doing [at first],” says Wendy Sirchio, a mom of two who went on to become a WE Day Ambassador and Co-founder of WE Day Kentucky. For Wendy, her husband, Kris, and their kids Sophie and Noah, giving back has become as much an essential part of their everyday lives as drinking water or getting exercise. One aspect of their journey as change-makers has been a literal journey to Ecuador on a ME to WE volunteer trip, where they were able to join community members in sustainable development projects, like building a school.
Taking a volunteer trip like the Sirchios’ is part of the WE Families story for many families, whether they choose to immerse in the culture of Ecuador, Kenya or India. Living WE as a family, working together and making a difference in the world is really my favorite part,” says 14-year-old Jouani Ghorbani, who, with his family, is actively involved with sustainable development work in Kenya. “Being with the people I love, working in these communities and getting to serve is something so special to be able to do.”
Some WE families stay closer to home, focusing on local good deeds, for instance by making more environmentally sustainable choices at home: recycling and composting, trading disposable water bottles for reusable ones, and cleaning up trash in their neighbourhood park. Others head to a food bank to sort canned goods, or organize a bake sale to raise funds for a new garden at a nearby seniors’ centre.
For Nikki and Chantal, the discussion about homelessness led them to an organization in their community that collects hygiene supplies for people living on the streets. The mother-daughter team’s work has started there, putting together hygiene kits to hand out, and knowing their work is making a difference, if only in a small way. “But who knows where it will lead?” says Chantal. “This is the start of something bigger for both of us.”