Philanthropy & Charity

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Take Me Outside

Take Me Outside

Running Across the Canadian Landscape That Shapes Us
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The Purpose Mindset

The Purpose Mindset

How Microsoft Inspires Employees and Alumni to Change the World
by Akhtar Badshah
foreword by Brad Smith
read by Matt Addis
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Building Unity


“Express your stress”


Like I said, I was a quiet kid. Even to this day, when I’m angry, I want to beat up the floor. But stress provides a creative opportunity for me: it fuels my dance. The biggest challenges in my life have given rise to new angles and perspectives to fuel my creativity. It's when I have the most to share, something to say, but words can’t express the story. It’s the raw expression birthed from experiences translated through movement. I express, create and heal in order to better understand my experiences. I turn pain into power.


In 2003, I had an idea. I wanted to share Hip Hop as a tool to create social change. Hip Hop was such a powerful tool in my life. Hip Hop was an expression, an outlet, a voice, a platform, a community. In grade 11, as part of a group project in my entrepreneurship class, our teacher, Mr. Izumi, gave us a practical real-world assignment. We had to write a business plan for an entrepreneurial venture that we would have to execute to raise money for a local charity of our choice. Our group ran an event we called “Hip Hop Away From Violence.” We donated the proceeds from the event to the charity Leave Out ViolencE (LOVE), a charity that worked with youth in underserved communities, providing them outlets and alternatives to violence through photojournalism.


The first event was a miserable failure. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. We needed to sell enough tickets to fill the school gym which held up to four hundred students. A few days before the event, we had only sold around 30 tickets. We decided to move to a smaller venue. The only venue we could get permission from the principal to use last minute was the cafeteria during lunch hour. This changed the entire dynamic of the event. It was terrible. No one paid attention. All the performers felt disrespected. Luckily, the charity we were working with cancelled their guest speaker, because it would have been an embarrassment. On top of everything else, a few of our best performers dropped out last minute. It was a disaster. We went through the motions and ran the event the best we could. I knew we could do better, we had to give it another shot. I still believed.


In grade 12, I was elected president of the student council and decided our big event that year would be Hip Hop Away From Violence. This time, we started preparing almost six months before the event date, getting students engaged in both planning and selling tickets to the event. We also secured a much stronger roster of performers to headline the show. In the end we ended up selling over three hundred tickets and raised a bunch of money for LOVE. Over three hundred of my peers respectfully listened to real stories of youth who had experienced violence. We had engaged a room full of young people with a message that was truly important, using Hip Hop as the hook. It was youth led and youth driven. We were onto something. 


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