Using privilege to the advantage of others

Some do a one day sleep out, others do it for five days.

Instead of taking her privilege for granted, Montana Myers is using it to do good by being homeless for five days.

For her second year in a row, Myers is spending this week experiencing homelessness.

“We are not trying to claim we are homeless,” Myers said. “It is definitely about experiencing homelessness.”

That experience is not easy. Participants like Myers are required to give up their access to social media, live in sleeping bags, only eat or drink what is donated to them and still attend their regular classes.

“It’s definitely been a tough almost 24 hours,” Myers said.

She realizes the difficulty still pales in comparison to what the homeless population experiences on a daily basis. Myers said the added advantages of being able to use the school washroom and being safe on campus are luxuries the homeless do not have.

Being an advocate of community service learning Myers said this experience has much more power than online donations.

“I find this a lot more effective than if you made a GoFundMe campaign,” she said.

The Carleton University business students are part of a national campaign called 5 Days for the Homeless. Since 2005, the program has aimed to raise awareness around the issue of homelessness and raise money for local charities.

This is the fourth year Carleton business students have taken part in the initiative. This year, participants are hoping to raise $12,000 for Operation Come Home.

Dominique Murphy, lead of the drop-in centre and housing support worker at Operation Come Home said these funds will go right back into programs or services.

Although these funds are important and necessary to do their work, Murphy said their top priority is awareness. Raising awareness helps end preconceived notions that homeless youth are just rebellious Murphy said.

“Our main focus is to raise awareness around youth homelessness,” she said.

That awareness has the ability to reduce stigma around the homeless population and humanize it Murphy said.

She explained the purpose of these sorts of events is to understand homelessness as much more then the absence of a home.

“It’s really all to benefit clients and youth,” Murphy said.

Back at Carleton, Myers said she hopes everyone has the opportunity to do some sort of event to raise awareness for the homeless population.

“I think it’s an experience everyone should do at least once,” Myers said.

For more information, or to donate to any of the campaigns head to 5days.ca.

Ottawa teen now inspires others to take faith in action

16-year-old Thomas Lindale is unlike others of his age.

For Thomas Lindale, going on a mission trip to India with Free the Children (now WE Charity) was really about being God’s light in the world.

After attending a WE Day conference in 2015 as a Grade 8 student, Lindale felt inspired to apply for a trip aimed at improving food security in India’s rural regions. He did not have high hopes of being selected.

“I didn’t think I was the exceptional candidate,” he said.

Two months later, to his surprise, he was selected.

Upon leaving Ottawa, Lindale could not express the emotions he was feeling. He was excited for the opportunity, but he was also scared because it was his first time travelling alone.

Those fears dissipated with a layover at the New Delhi Airport. Although he was the second youngest on the trip, he realized he was in good hands with people who would soon become his closest friends.

Lindale and his group of volunteers were travelling during monsoon season. When they arrived at the village, they saw that every field was flooded and the local farmers lost their crops.

Their mission was to build a stone wall to protect the local farmers’ crops from being washed away. This wall to protect their garden would continue giving back year after year.

“The very thought of someone being happier when you’re leaving them than when you came,” he said. “That’s amazing.”

Coming home from that mission trip, Lindale was inspired to become more proactive in his faith. He wanted to bring God’s light into every aspect of his life.

“Just because we have it good here doesn’t mean we can’t have it good everywhere,” Lindale said.

Now in Grade 10, 16-year-old Lindale is taking the lead on bringing other young people to Christ. He is involved in many clubs at his high school, St. Pius X.

With the guidance of his chaplain, Lindale created a group called Pius X last year. This group meets regularly at lunch hour to discuss matters of faith. Last semester, Pius X launched their own Alpha youth program.

“I thought there must be a way to calm down during the day and be at peace because at school it’s loud,” he said. “It’s rare you get a quiet place to think by yourself and I also thought … God is a great peace.”

This isn’t the first youth group in which Lindale has helped make a difference. In Grade 8, he applied for a Speak Up grant from the Ontario government for the youth group. The Speak Up grant is aimed at engaging students and helping them take action on something they’re interested in.

The Ontario government awarded Lindale’s youth group $1,000 which they used to organize a year-end retreat in Vals des Monts, Que. The retreat was themed “You are the light of the world” and provided students the opportunity reflect on how they can be God’s light in the world.

His faith and this mantra have had an effect on the countless other activities and fundraisers he is involved in.

Lindale said that being brought up in a Catholic home has taught him what it means to be grateful and how to put that into action. It has given him the opportunity to be a leader and find ways he can help. He wants to seize the opportunities to lead and encourage others similar in age to do the same.

“A young person making a change can be very inspirational for their friends around them,” he said.