She’s one of St. Albert’s volunteerism wunderkinds who has already spent years trying to make this city and even the world a better place. It comes as no surprise that Sophia Qaderi, 19, was chosen to travel to Ottawa to do what she could for the future of the nation too.
She participated in an educational and experiential excursion tied in to coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday. It was her first time in Ottawa, and her first time travelling alone as well. Any feelings of loneliness ended upon her arrival, when she met up with the other 149 members of her unique cohort.
Any feelings of stagnancy from the flight must have dissipated quickly too.
“We got to work right away even though we barely knew each other. The day we landed, we exchanged ideas as though we knew each other for a long time. We created a bond so quickly and we were ready with multiple projects to present to the Governor General, the Honourable David Johnston,” she said.
She was part of a group of 150 youth delegates organized by ExperiencesCanada. The national non-profit organization allows Canadian youths to develop mutual respect and understanding through exchange programs that explore their heritage, language, and community. All of these participants won their way on the trip by first writing essays about Canada’s greatest challenges.
Once in Ottawa, they had their chance to try and take those challenges head on.
“We only had 48 hours to put together six to eight projects to present. I had the opportunity to discuss one of my passions, which is the environment and how it is one of Canada’s greatest issues,” she continued.
This was only the springboard. It was a 10-day whirlwind adventure that also included some cultural day trips to such places as museums and a farm that supported incoming refugees. The group was also put to a bit of work, volunteering on a bridge that connects Quebec and Ontario. Later, they attended the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, where artists including Michael BublÄ‚Â© and Michael J. Fox received awards. “It was quite an amazing time.”
But there was some fun, in the form of some hobnobbing with the famous and powerful.
“Of course, last but not least, we got to be on the Canada150 stage, which was right in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prince Charles, their spouses and the Governor General. It was like a jackpot.”
It was a bit nerve-wracking, she said, getting to go backstage where performers were coming and going in a frenzy but totally worth it, especially when it came to be her turn to take the spotlight.
“There was so much going on. Everything was go, go, go. When we got to go on stage, I was right in front of Justin Trudeau, like three feet away. That’s how close I was. If I reached my arm out I could’ve touched him. That’s how close. It was a surreal experience. I couldn’t stop staring. I was just so star-struck. It felt like the best moment of my life.”
Now that she’s back in St. Albert, she’s had a chance to reflect on what it all meant to her: for her future and the future of the country.
“For me, it was such an inspiring trip. It’s true when people say that anything can happen. I met so many other youths and we exchanged ideas. I felt like this is an upcoming generation that’s really going to change the world. Even just on a personal level, I feel like I can do so much more and change the world in a great way.”