Winners of the Compassion in Action Contest!

"Thank you to everyone who participated in the Compassion In Action Contest. Read the winning essays below!

Empowerment: Compassion in Action

Student Name School Board Title of Submission
Sarah Jacobs Howard S. Billings High School NFSB Jacobs to Jacobs
Larissa Keenan Howard S. Billings High School NFSB Aunt Nancy
Emilie Perrier Howard S. Billings High School NFSB Cherish Every Moment
Saul Benoit James Lyng High School EMSB Ms. Warner
Maisha Maqsud Lasalle Community Comprehensive High School LBPSB The Hero Who Gave Me Life
Debbie Fitopoulos Laurenhill Academy EMSB Emma Watson
Panorea Theodorakakos Laurenhill Academy EMSB Emma Watson
Audrey-Anne Girouard Metis Beach School ESSB Best Friend
Noémy Savard Metis Beach School ESSB Meghan Markle
Emilie Fullum St. Thomas High School LBPSB L'Anse au Sable
Rayyan Fotovati St. Thomas High School LBPSB My Mother and Father, My Inspirations
Tahsin Islam Vincent Massey Collegiate EMSB A Young Hero


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Read what students have to say about their experience at Encounters With Canada


I strongly believe that it is programs such as this one that enrich our education and help broaden our knowledge on our country and the beauty of its diversity. Many thanks for this generous life changing opportunity. My time in Ottawa and my memories made, will forever be close to my heart.  I urge you to continue giving other young, aspiring students the same incredible chance you gave to me!


I would like to tell you how grateful I am to have been able to go to Encounters with Canada and that you have paid for my trip. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity and I won't forget the adventure I was able to attend.


Before starting the story of the great experience I had at Encounters with Canada I would like to thank you sincerely for sponsoring my week at Encounters With Canada. I would also like to apologize for the tardiness of this letter.


We were so honoured that LEARN chose us for this once in a lifetime opportunity. It was the most educational experience in my life. Without LEARN sponsoring this trip I wouldn’t have been able to learn so much about medicine and speak to specialists. To get the chance to be part of this spectacular program was an honour!


offer my sincere thanks for the wonderful opportunity that LEARN has furnished me with. At Encounters, I made many friends, memories and also built on many skills be they social or academic.


LEARN, you can’t imagine how grateful I am…. (for) given me seven straight days of fun! It was a week where you could never stop smiling. I was very independent and not afraid of being alone. I give all the credit to LEARN for making me live this experience which I thought I’d never live. You should keep continuing these contests because everyone should have this opportunity.

EWC 2018 Winners

A Young Hero by Tahsin Islam

This young boy, now aged 35, has inspired me to be aware and grateful of where I am now. In 1995, Craig Kielburger at 12 years old, read an article in the Toronto Star about a Pakistani boy, Iqbal Masih’s murder. It affected him deeply and he decided to take action. He was hurt reading about him being one of thousands of child labourers at the time. As a person of action, he founded the organization, Free the Children along with a group of classmates his age, as well. Craig had full determination to raise awareness about child labour.

I was in Grade 5 when I first learned about ME TO WE, a social enterprise founded by Craig and his brother, Mark. I was told that it’s a movement that raises awareness about children that were my age (11 years) who were suffering and living under harsh conditions. When I heard that there would be the chance to win tickets to WE Day in my school, I was hyped. So, everyone was told to write down and submit why we deserved to go there. Four out of thirty students won, and one of them was me! I was amazed by the atmosphere and the bright lights everywhere. Then I saw music shows, dances and speeches. I learned about Iqbal Masih and I was saddened that another child my age was living in a terrible society. He was fighting for his freedom and rights, and his brutal murder sparked an outrage around the world. He died as a martyr. I didn’t understand why he had to die for speaking up for his rights; and not just him, but also other children like him died to end abolitionism. His famous quote “Children should have pens in their hand not tools,” inspired children like me at my school to help others and be grateful for opportunities that were open to us.

Craig Kielburger felt saddened to hear about Iqbal Masih’s murder because young children like him should be having fun and receiving education, not working their backs off. He wanted children who have been through the same experiences as Iqbal, to speak for themselves rather than having their parents speak for them. I agree with that because some parents tend to twist or cover what has happened to save their self-respect or their honour. That would mean that these children would have to carry this burden or guilt of not being able to speak up wherever they go and no one would be able to help them.

What I really admire about Craig is how ambitious he is to help children thousands of kilometres away from him. He had so much courage and determination, and because of that, Free the Children is now a worldwide organization that empowers people like me to make a difference in the world, one step at a time. Craig realized that freeing children from labour wasn’t enough, as they weren’t able to support their families financially and most of them would have to go back to work. The Kielburger brothers decided to develop a program for children to have access to five things necessary to facilitate their lives: education, water, health, food and alternative income.

In order to discover what children are living through in different societies and organizations involving anti-abolitionism, Craig embarked on a seven-week trip with his family

in the East in India, Nepal, Thailand and Bangladesh. Upon his return, Craig Kielburger was a celebrity. He also asked the prime minister of Canada at the time, Jean Chrétien, during his trip, to talk about child labour in his trade talk. There were many people who wanted to interview him for his work and organizations, but not everyone was convinced. The Saturday Nightmagazine stated that the parents of Craig are using him to enrich the family. They sued the magazine and kept some of the money for legal fees and donated the rest to Free the Children. Craig Kielburger never gave up. He knew if he kept persuading and raise awareness about child labour, people would support the movement. After his appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1999, donations to the organization boosted.

His organizations and opportunities that he offered, inspired people like me and children still living in poverty to not lose hope. If an eleven-year-old boy could speak his voice and create a movement to free the children, then imagine what we can do. We can travel to various countries, give back and volunteer our time to help people living in under-privileged societies. We can donate money and help children receive a proper education to have a fun childhood. Children like Iqbal Masih can now have the opportunity to speak for their rights, themselves, because they won’t have anyone to stop them.

Rockel, Nick. The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail Newspaper. October 26, 2010. Web. Accessed 4 October 2018.

Mcquarrie, Jonathan . "Craig Kielburger". The Canadian Encyclopedia, 04 January 2018, Historica Canada. Accessed 2 October 2018.

n.p. WE. Me to We. n.d. Web. October 2 2018.

Aunt Nancy by Larissa Keenan

Warm hugs, bright smiles that lit up the room and jokes shared over freshy baked cookies. Aunt Nancy was a kind and caring person who always looked out for others. When you were having a bad day, she would always be able to get you to laugh or at least brighten up your day. That was just who she was; it was in her nature to help others. She was a nurse for many years, working for a while at the Douglas, but even after she retired, she kept working, starting her own cake business, and eventually teaching me how to bake. She was always very supportive no matter what new hobby I was taking up, she would support me, no matter how short the hobby lasted. She was always there for me.

As a kid I was always looking for new hobbies, so when I started to show an interest in photography, Aunt Nancy would let me take pictures on her camera until the memory was full. She taught me how to properly work the camera so that I could get the “best” picture. That year, she got me my very first camera. I took that camera everywhere, and whenever I wanted to take a picture of something, Aunt Nancy would wait for me to take the picture, and every time I would ask for her opinion she would always say it was perfect. If I ever wanted to be in the picture, she would hold the camera and wait for me to get into my pose and tell her I was ready before taking the picture. Sometimes I would take forever trying to figure out where to stand, but she never hurried me. She would just smile and help me figure out where the best place to take the picture was.

Aunt Nancy is also one of the main reasons why I love to read. Every night before bed, she would have me pick out a book and she would read to me. As I got older she would have me read it to her. She would sit there patiently while I read and would help me with words I had trouble pronouncing. No matter how frustrated I got she just rubbed my back and told me to “keep trying and you would soon get it,” which is something I keep telling myself today. Her encouragement helped me to see how much fun reading is and is why I love books so much.

Every time I went over for a sleepover, Aunt Nancy would always have something for us to bake. It was usually some type of cookie. She taught me how to properly

mix the batter, use frosting bags and how to get the perfect cookies. No matter how long it took me to get it, or how big of a mess I made, she would always just smile and help me fix it. One of my fondest memories of her is when we were using the blender and I wanted to see what it looked like when it started to mix the ingredients. So I leaned over and turned on the blender, my face right over the bowl, and boom, flour, sugar and all the other dry ingredients that were in the bowl, went everywhere, but mostly on me! Aunt Nancy was quick to turn off the blender and to start laughing at how covered I was. She took a picture then, sent me into the bathroom to clean up while she took care of the mess in the kitchen. She also never complained when I would eat the ingredients, like the sugar or chocolate chips; she would laugh and say she used to do the same thing.

In conclusion, my aunt Nancy was a wonderful person who always saw the best in everything and everyone. She was very supportive and loving. Her smiles and hugs are missed, but I will never forget what she did for me. She’s a huge part of who I am and is the reason why I love so many of the things I do. Rest in Peace Aunt Nancy, we love you.

Best Friend by Audrey-Anne Girouard

Where to start with all of this? The person I chose today who inspires me is Noémy. So to give you a clear picture of her, this is how I can describe her. She is a tall woman about 5 feet and 10 inches. She has brown chocolate hair with green forest eyes with a little bit of yellow. Always wearing a big fat bun on top of her head and not to forget a contagious smile.

So the context of all this is to explain why a person inspires you. Noémy is a big ball of joy, never mad or sad. So automatically, she makes everyone smile when they see her smiling. If you start talking about something that she has at heart, she will argue until the end because she knows that it is right. Noémy will always find the best in every person, even though they may have not always been a good person. Trust me, she will always find the best in you. Noémy and I will have a lot of stories to say to our grandchildren; stories about boys or just weird stuff that we have shared.

So last year, in 2017, my mind and soul were not at their best. They were actually at the lowest level that they could have been. All that to say, I had suicidal thoughts. I thought that if I would disappear, everyone would just go on and be better off without me. I was privileged to have both Noémy and Elizabeth take the initiative to speak to a teacher and for this teacher to get outside services. The teacher called “aide suicide” and someone from that organization called me to ask me if I was

okay and I wasn't. So I will always be thankful to Noémy and Elizabeth because I deserve my place here on earth. Noémy’s favorite quote is, “life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful” and this quote is beautiful by its statement.

Noémy is the friend that everyone desires and should have. In all honesty, Noémy IS my best friend and I am not scared of saying it to anyone who asks. She makes me a better person every day. I truly love her. Life would simply not be the same without her. She is a true friend that I count on, no matter when or why.

Cherish Every Moment by Emilie Perrier

Parents are underrated, but step-parents are even more underrated. I don’t understand how someone who takes you in as their own and cares for you can be underrated. In my case, my stepfather was the best thing to happen in my life.

I am currently 16 years old, and my mother got a divorce when I was 5 years old. Along with her divorce came a blessing; Hugues, my stepdad. Although he isn’t my biological father, he is most definitely my dad. I had never experienced being ‘’daddy’s little girl’’ but with him, I was and I still am.

When I say he took me in as his own, I do not say this lightly. My mother was a single mother of two at the time, and that didn’t push him away. In fact, they ended up wanting more kids and had my little sister and brother together. My family truly has a bond that can never be broken.

As kids, my older brother and I were very occupied by sports. My brother played hockey 5 days a week and I danced 6 days a week. Our schedule was constantly full, with very little spare time. Somehow my dad managed to always be present at every event and always on time, whether it is to pick me up from dance or to attend a competition. I remember one year, I was competing in Quebec City, and my brother had a hockey final in Chateauguay. The Friday we left early in the morning so I could compete that night. We spent the night and the next morning we drove back to Chateauguay to be at my brother’s game. That same night we drove back to Quebec so I could finish my competition, as I was part of more than one dance team. He always found a way to make everything possible and always goes out of his way to make sure that we are happy. The crazy thing is he doesn’t only try to make US happy and make sure everything is possible, he does this for other kids. My dad is the type of person who enjoys helping other people out. For example, when my brother and I were younger, I can’t even remember how many times he’d driven my brother’s teammates to practice or games just to make sure they wouldn’t miss it. He understands the struggle of busy schedules; therefore, he tries to accommodate parents to help them out when needed. To this day, he does the same thing with my younger siblings.

January 2014, I thought my world was going to end. I remember coming home one day from school and my mom called me like she always did after school. Except this time something was weird; I could tell by her voice. “Emilie, stay calm okay? Promise me you won’t panic, dad is in the hospital,” she said. I couldn’t believe it; my dad had a heart attack. Knowing he had died on the table and came back to life really did something to me. I thought that he came back to life for my family and me. While he was in the hospital, we made him get well cards, yet all I really wanted to do was go see him, but I couldn’t. When he finally came back home, I could barely touch him which broke my heart. I knew he was hurting and I didn’t know how to feel about it. It was in that moment that I realized that you should cherish every second that you live, because you don’t know what to expect for the next second coming up.

The reason I am most grateful for this human being is because he makes my mom the happiest she’s ever been. With him she laughs a little louder, smiles brighter and just enjoys life a lot more than she has in the past. He makes her the happiest woman alive.

Although we don’t always see eye to eye and have our differences, no words can express how grateful I am for Hugues. I truly don’t know where I’d be without this man in my life. As I get older, I realize that I don’t say thank you as much as I should which is unfortunate, therefore I’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you to my parents for everything they do for us. I love you both so much.

Emma Watson by Panorea Theodorakakos and Debbie Fitopoulos


Emma Watson, well-spoken and talented theatrically has marked an important place in elite Hollywood and our humane society. Emma Watson, born Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson, was born to two English lawyers in Paris, France on April 15th 1990. At the age of 5, following her parents’ divorce she moved to Oxfordshire, England with her mom and brother where she began her education. Her weekends were spent in London with her dad. From a young age, the English actress knew theater was the path she aspired to take in life. Alongside regular school, she was enrolled part time in the Oxford Stagecoach Theatre Arts and was coached in singing, acting and dancing. By ten years old, she was already involved in many school plays and Stagecoach productions.

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Jacobs to Jacobs by Sarah Jacobs

Have you ever had so much inspiration for a person before? Well, my father, like most men from Kahnawake, is an ironworker, but to me he is unique and will forever inspire me to become a parent like he is. My father, Ross Jacobs, is hardworking and has allowed me to look up to him. He has taught me to be independent. He does everything he can to help me, he takes every summer off to be with my little brother and me, and gives my mother a break.

To start off, my father has raised five kids: four boys and one girl, which is me. Being the only girl in the house can be very difficult, but my dad has made me realize my strengths which make me equal to my brothers. Being a girl, I do learn the ways from my mother, like most girls, but I also learn from my father, like how to use certain tools and how to fix certain things. With my knowledge of tools, it allows me to find solutions more easily when something is broken. Teaching me his ways helps me to be independent and to help others when he is away.

Even though my dad is gone for five out of seven days, we still have weekends together. Usually weekends are the busiest for my parents. This includes grocery shopping, running errands and going to my softball practices. My dad always tries to find the time to take me to my three-hour practices that could be an hour away. That’s five hours! Not only does he bring me to my practices but if I need supplies for school or help, he is there. Sometimes when I feel like I am asking for too much, he reminds me to never be afraid to ask questions because what will I lose from asking?

My family and I don’t get to see my father that much, so he takes summers off to help my mom out and to spend time with us. When he is home, he literally turns into a wife, husband, mother and a father at the same time. He cooks, cleans, works and spends time with all of us at the same time. During summers, my dad brings us back to his days, which I enjoy, where most mornings we go out for breakfast and he tells about his childhood and early memories. Then we’re out all day either swimming, playing golf, working on a project together or just outside somewhere. I enjoy this because my dad can teach me new things and also because I can make memories myself. It also gives a chance for my dad to talk to me and ask how I am doing. My father is really good at telling when I don’t seem right. That is what I like about my father; he can play both parts of being a mom and a dad.

In conclusion, my dad has inspired me in so many ways and one of them being how I can be a role model for my future children. I can teach my kids how to do anything and it doesn’t matter that I am a woman, whether it’s how to make a braid or to how to change a flat tire. Independence is a big key that my dad taught me, but also to be there for my family and to do everything I can to support them in good and bad times. My dad will forever be my go-to person and be the one that I look up to.

L’Anse Au Sable by Emilie Fullum

An individual who has inspired me and whom I believe has helped to make their community a better place is Mr. Jean Fournel. Mr. Fournel is the owner of a local agricultural farm in Notre-Dame-de-L'île Perrot. The farm is named L’Anse Au Sable and is situated around the corner from my house. For the past two summers and fall seasons, I have been helping and learning about what it takes to run a farm. Mr. Fournel has given me and many other local residents, a first-hand look at how he gives back to local residents and students from around the province. His giving nature has inspired me to give back to my community as well.

When I was first introduced to Mr. Fournel I was very impressed by how much he does for my community. Some of the ways he gives back are:

• Giving two (2) homeless shelters produce from his farm;

• Weekly compost pick-ups in our neighbourhood;

• Hiring Quebec students - this program is run by the Parliamentary Secretary to the

Prime Minister for Youth Affairs Peter Schiefke.

My first task when hired was to pick the strawberries from the fields. I instantly became fascinated with the local markets. Shortly after, Mr. Fournel encouraged me to meet and greet the customers at the kiosk. By the end of the summer, I was involved with training new employees. I was so glad that Mr. Fournel trusted me and through his guidance, I learned so much about his field of expertise.

During the summer, Mr. Fournel is also very involved at the Université du Québec. This second job that Mr. Fournel undertakes provides a university student with a 6-month apprenticeship to learn about running an agricultural business. Not only does Mr. Fournel run a farm, but he is also involved with other important responsibilities. Mr. Fournel is one of the six District Councillors of Notre-Dame-de-L'île-Perrot and is specifically responsible for representing the local citizens at the city council.

While getting to know Mr. Fournel as a businessman and friend, he has inspired me in many ways:

• He has shown me to appreciate the abundance of what can be grown locally in the province of Quebec.

• He has also taught me about gastronomy

• His constant giving back to the community

• The direction I would like my education to follow

Mr. Jean Fournel clearly values education and while working with him, he has introduced me to politicians such as Mr. Peter Schiefke. This encounter has inspired me to work for and towards the Canadian Law and Justice system to better the lives of Canadians.

Overall, Mr. Fournel is someone that has inspired me. His day-to-day tasks are physically demanding and whether he is in the fields, composting, cutting the flowers or teaching young residents like myself, Mr. Fournel clearly loves his work. I sincerely appreciate all that he does at work and for my community in Notre-Dame-de-L'île-Perrot.

Ms. Warner by Saul Benoit

Although this doesn’t happen daily, I can say that for the most part, people look at me and assume I’m just a “regular” everyday kind of kid. Usually, people might assume that I come from a loving home with two parents, take vacations regularly, have plenty of money for food and clothing, and little to no stress. Sadly, this is not my reality. I am the fourth child born in a family of eight siblings, being raised by only my mother. We live in a four bedroom apartment, and my mother has serious health issues and cannot work. I often come to school early to eat as part of the breakfast program, and I have a reduced-fare lunch ticket so that I can have a proper lunch during the day. That being said, I am not without several blessings, and several people who have been an amazing source of support and who have inspired me to be a better person and to seize opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

During the 2017-2018 school year, I was fortunate to be a secondary 3 student in Ms. Warner’s English class. Ms. Warner was somewhat different than some of my other teachers; she went out of her way to help her students, she used innovative technology, and most importantly, she had faith in her students.

I attend an urban arts high school in the southwest area of Montreal. Our school is a community school that caters to students with learning disabilities, a history of trauma, and generally, students who come from low-income backgrounds. Most of the time, it can feel like we are just trying to get through high school to graduate. Ms. Warner saw things a bit differently.

Ms. Warner transformed her faith in us into action. One of the moments that stood out most to me, and one that I will cherish for my whole life, was the once in a lifetime opportunity she gave our class to travel. I personally had never travelled anywhere really, and was thrilled at the opportunity to go somewhere new and experience a new city through a different lens. What made Ms. Warner even more special was her leadership and her compassion; she worked passionately to not only give us this incredible opportunity, but encouraged us to be an integral part of making this trip a reality.

Ms. Warner really pushed all of us. Although some students were irritated by this or were not as excited by the opportunity presented to them, I certainly was! Despite being somewhat mocked by my peers for my excitement to visit Toronto, I continued to push forward, especially with the fundraising portion of the experience. I was eager to go to her class during lunch to brainstorm fundraising ideas and then was thrilled to put these ideas into action. Even though other staff and students thought that we wouldn’t be able to raise the money or go on the trip, Ms. Warner stood tall and continued to push us; showing us not only that she believed in us as individuals, but that she recognized that our community doesn’t get opportunities like this, and she pushed forward to turn these into a reality.

Ms. Warner stayed motivated, and was able to keep us all motivated throughout the process. She really proved the staff and other students wrong, and set a wonderful example for all of us. Her belief in us is what inspired me, and all of the students in our class. She taught us that we are capable and deserving.

The trip itself was incredible! I really enjoyed meeting other people and seeing a different part of Canada. If it wasn’t for the determination, inspiration, and compassion of Ms. Warner, I would never have been blessed with such an opportunity to not only challenge myself and push myself, but to realize that I have a lot of potential and that when I put my mind to something, it can be achieved.

When I heard about the Encounters with Canada program, I immediately jumped at the opportunity! I may not get this opportunity again, and would be so blessed to be able to travel to Ottawa for a week, pursue my passion in the Law and Justice system week if possible, meet students from across the nation, and then return to hopefully inspire others to reach their goals and never give up!

I want to thank you for taking the time to review my letter and I sincerely hope that I am one of the lucky ones chosen so that I can go on this trip of a lifetime!

Saul Benoit

The Hero Who Gave Me Life by Maisha Maqsud

Being a child means enjoying your life and not comprehending the world. Growing up, I never knew the things that had happened to the lives of the people around me. I enjoyed running around and having fun and not being grateful. Then again, I don’t know any kid who would know anything besides having fun. I don’t know exactly how old I was back then, but it took a while for me to realize just how lucky my life is and it’s because of my dad, my hero.

My dad lost his parents and his older brother at a pretty young age. He was left with a younger brother and younger sister. He grew up in a family member’s house and that doesn’t automatically mean being respected. There were times that he stole when he needed something, like food. He also wasn’t born in a country where you had privileges, so it didn’t make life easier. He didn’t have the life that he gave me and my brothers in Canada. He was born and raised in Bangladesh. He gave us options, like letting us learn and have an education, while when he was younger, he was only able complete high school and a year of college.

He knew if he stayed in his home country, he wouldn’t be able to have a good life, so he moved to Canada and here he met my mother. Coming here didn’t mean he would be handed everything. Even when having to plan for his wedding he, had to pay half of everything which he worked extremely hard for. He was on his own. He had people around, but that didn’t change the fact that he had pride and he understood that whatever someone had, it was something they earned and he wanted to earn his own things. In the end, he was able to change his life for the better and gave me and my brothers an opportunity for a better education and a better life. I will always be grateful, even when we don’t see eye to eye.

Everything in life comes with good and bad. My dad had a bad start at the beginning of his life, but now his life has changed completely. Knowing that his parents weren’t able to see what he accomplished is the only depressing side to it, but hopefully, they are watching from above with pride and joy.

My father is my hero because he never gave up and worked for what he wanted. He was able to immigrate to Canada, find work, find a lifelong partner and make a family with three children. He always inspires me and my family. Living alone for all those years, he learned new things. For my dad, any challenge that gets thrown in his way, never blocks him from doing what he wants to. Even at his age, which is around sixty, new challenges still emerge for him. I think that the hardest challenge for him might have been raising a daughter. My mom and dad raised two boys before me, so they didn’t have any experiences with girls. They always tell me they were happy to have me, but I doubt that I was an easy child to take care of.

He was able to take care of both my brothers in his prime time, but for me, it was too late. I always wished I was able to be there when the sky was the limit for him, but we can’t time travel, yet. Now the only thing I can do to learn about his past is hear stories and watch VHS tapes.

Even at his age he works hard. He’s a handicapped man whose legs aren’t as strong as they used to be and he uses all his strength he has left to keep his family happy and safe. He does everything for our family that he was not able to do for his family. He raised three kids who do have big mouths, but kids who learned right from wrong and know how to steer their lives the way they want; and if I do say this myself, it’s rare to find a family where everyone knows what they want their future to hold or at least in my whole family. These were only a few examples of why my dad inspires me every day, but expressing just how much gratitude you have for someone is a hard task. I hope I was able to express enough of my feelings about why my dad is my hero in this essay.