Somewhere in my 30-mumble-mumble years, I’ve become a bit of a crank, particularly when it comes to teenagers. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the youths, but I do find myself shaking my fist in the air and rallying, “Kids these days!” more than I would like. (I blame selfies and the Biebs.) Which is why I was totally thrilled when an email from Kasha and her mother, Marla, landed in my inbox.
Kasha is a 15-year-old girl on a mission: to find the good in the world through those who are making a difference within their communities—and to then share those stories through writing, photography and documentary filmmaking. Think feel-good journalism with a dash of adolescent self-growth thrown in—in addition to sharing the tales of those she meets, she wants to document how the journey changes her, a teenager who, in her own words, doesn’t want to live life “in a North American bubble.”
She’s got an impressive resume for someone so young (heck, for anyone, period)—she was selected as a youth delegate to attend the United Nations’ session on the Commission of the Status of Women last March; she’s previously worked with the charity Free the Children and their Me to We initiative; and this year she was a candidate for both G Adventures’ The G Project, coming in twelfth in her category out of a few hundred entries, and Raindance Toronto’s LIVE! AMMUNITION! pitching contest, where she placed second. The project she pitched to both G and Raindance is the one that she’s persuing right now, moving ahead without funding from either, but hoping she can fundraise the money needed through an Indiegogo campaign.
Her project, called the Global Sunrise Project (Kasha holds the title of The Sunrise Storyteller), is about finding stories of global citizens, she tells me over the phone. “A global citizen is someone who doesn’t see themselves as part of just one country,” she says. “They don’t just watch the news and go back to their own lives.”
The trip will see her and Marla traversing through South America, South Africa and Southeast Asia over six months, from March to August 2014. On their journey, Kasha hopes to seek out stories of resilience, inspiration and empowered leadership, and to document it all in both a film and book of short stories.
Her list of supporters contains some heavy names, including Free the Children ambassador Spencer West, and National Geographic contributor Lola Akinmade-Åkerström. At the Raindance competition, panellist Gail Harvey said, “I’ve seen a lot of film pitches over the course of my career but it’s not often I get the privilege of hearing one as remarkable by a 15-year-old with the vision and courage to venture out into the world to make a documentary on what global citizenship looks like through the eyes of a teenager.”
When you’re talking to Kasha, it’s easy to forget her age, and the fact that she isn’t already a seasoned traveller. Her only trip to date has been to Cuba, but she credits it with opening her up to the possibility of using travel as a force for good. (Side note: she wins bonus points from me for our mutual love for Havana.) In Cuba, the pair avoided resort life in favour of local culture, “checking out what’s not built for tourists, what it’s really like to live there,” she says.
“As a youth, I haven’t been exposed to what’s going on in the world. The media often just shows the negative side. It’s not all bad. People are doing good for the planet.”
It’s enough to make you believe in teenage dreams.
Kasha’s Indiegogo campaign ends December 30, 2013, and you can donate to her cause here. Any additional funds contributed that exceed Kasha’s goal of $25,000 will be donated through Free the Children to support delivery of Aboriginal education in Canada, as well as to help create alternative income projects for women living in poverty abroad.