A few days after 14-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in October, a group of students at John Oliver secondary sought to publicize her quest to send girls to school.
“It just angered me that she had to go through this and all she wanted to do was go to school,” said 17-year-old Grade 12 student Jasmine Rakhra, president of the Eyes of Hope school club that helped create a video called You, Me, We are All Malala.
The video, posted to YouTube, JO’s website, Facebook and Twitter, highlights Yousafzai’s plight and features teenaged girls urging others to speak out against injustice. “Use the voice you were given to spread awareness and make people listen,” one girl says in the video.
Students in Grade 9 and a pupil with a friend in Pakistan were particularly keen to devote spare time to the video. “Malala was the same age as them so they were able to connect,” Rakhra said.
The release of the video coincides with the social justice club’s Love Week at John Oliver. Rakhra said the week is meant to spread “positive energy.”
Rakhra’s participation in an environmental club at Pierre Elliott Trudeau elementary in southeast Vancouver propelled her to join Eyes of Hope, which focuses on homelessness, child poverty and HIV/AIDS.
In Grade 9, she led a Sock Wars competition between grades at JO and collected 4,055 pairs of socks for homeless people in just three weeks.
Rakhra and Eyes of Hope sponsor teacher Harkiran Aulakh were honoured for their humanitarian work at We Day 2010, an event meant to inspire youth to work for change locally and globally. For her prize, Rakhra chose to volunteer in Kenya and won permission to spread her winnings to support trips for four members of the club instead of one. Rakhra carried water to a village, just as the community’s children do, and shovelled dirt to break ground for a dormitory at an all-girls’ boarding school.
Rakhra was born blind and corneal transplants help her to see with one eye. She also suffers with a rare neurological illness that gives her symptoms of a brain tumour, including double vision, nausea and vomiting.
“If it weren’t for all of my experiences I wouldn’t be able to accomplish all the things that I have,” Rakhra said.