By Desi Today News Desk
Rochelle Prasad has been volunteering and taking action for a better world since a young age. She was recognized for her global voluntarism efforts in Ecuador and Kenya, with the 2017 Soroptimist International Women’s award, and the 2018 Canada 150 awards in Leadership. Rochelle has co-founded two organizations: the Surrey Youth Safety Council, and Surrey Team for Youth Leadership and Engagement.
She also runs Camp We Empower, which is a leadership camp aimed to empower the next generation, through giving students in grades eight to twelve the tools needed in order to thrive in our community; while making a positive difference. During this three-day, two-night camp, students are geared to participate in life-skills building workshops, hear from community guest speakers, and be partnered with a mentor.
She shares with Desi Today how she got the inspiration to do something like this.
We are a youth for youth organization in British Columbia, with our whole being to empower the next generation to take action for a better world! We provide, and guide people in grades K-12 through awesome workshops on various themes such as: leadership and social justice, STEM for STEAM, entrepreneurship/business and so much more. We truly believe in the next generation, and in what they have to offer the world; and we know that with inspiring education, nothing is impossible for the next generation.
Camp We Empower was definitely not an over-night success. It took a couple years of building, learning, growing, connecting and tumbling to figure out how to best serve our world and the people in it.
Rewind to 2013, the summer of grade 10. My friend and I were returning home from a leadership conference here in Surrey, BC. On the ride home, we were talking about all things community engagement, where our lives were headed and what food we were going to eat when we got home… you know the usual grade 10 stuff, to an extent. Our conversation got to a point where we both realized that if we do not do anything to take action for a better world, no one else will. It all truly does start with our spark within, and that is when the idea of camps came around. My friend Aman and I talked it out, and decided that we would plan and host a small camp for our peers, and make it leadership themed so it “seemed” educational.
Skip to grade 11, and we were day one out of three into our camp, we had 12 students, and the two of us. It was pouring rain, the wind was blowing, our fire to cook our dinner on kept blowing out, rain was seeping into tents and cabins, students were complaining, the gas stove started to leek. Just everything went awry, and the last thing on our minds was doing this leadership camp ever again. I remember looking over at Aman, and she looked back at me, standing in the pouring rain with confidence and nodded. I knew what that meant.
That meant, “Ok Rochelle, get yourself together. You can’t make everyone happy, but what you can do is be brave”. That is exactly what happened. Aman and I grabbed some extra tarps, I then grabbed a couple of students then proceeded to walk them through a tent tie knot, while Aman yelled over the wind and rain to gather everyone into one cabin. We then quickly learnt how to close off the gas valve, fasten the perimeter, did a head count and hung tight with our students in one cabin. Through the time span of 20 minutes, I remember feeling so lost, and discomforted by the feeling of just not having it all together. But to be really honest here, you do not have to have it all together, all the time! It is in the moments of thunder, in the moments of feeling frail that we grow and learn the most.
When Aman and I were proceeding with head counts in our cabin, making sure everyone was alive and safe, we were all frantic, but did our best not to express it. Imagine a group of 13-17 year olds, away from their parents and guardians, at a campsite they have not been to before. Doesn’t it sound like a really well planned scene in a horror movie!? I thought so. In the midst of all of it, I remember our youngest student coming up to me, I knelt down and she whispered, “thank you”. I then asked her what had happened. She then said, “this is the best camp I have ever been to. I learnt how to be courageous like you and Aman, and I feel empowered!”. Time froze, and then thats when I realized, even though the day did not go our way, it is in our actions and what we have instilled our participants with that matters the most.
After the rain storm had passed, we all exited the cabin and started to gather up kindling for a fire. That same student then came up to again, and helped create the base of our fire pit. She then asked me, “can I try starting the fire”. I then said to her, “you already have the spark, you can do this”. She probably had no idea what the heck I was referencing to, but bonds were truly strengthen that day.
Fast forward 5 years, and here we are today. Aman and I are entering our twenties, with high hopes for Camp We Empower. We are taking action for a better world, and igniting passions one spark at a time.
Our programs are divided up into three main outlets, our Mini series, Mega series camps, and in School : Empowering teachers and educators workshops
Our mini series are two day workshops were young people in grades K-12 can learn about there choose workshops theme such as: community engagement, how to find their inner leader, how to build their own kid business, and connect with mentors from our community
Our Mega series is a four day, three night camp that happens in the month of March. This is were we invite speakers, and activity co-ordinators from across the country and around the world to interact with participating youth. We also offer workshops for the students to take part in, and provide them with mentors for life. Regestration is NOW OPEN for this camp. Grades 7-12. Regestration can be found on our website: www.campweempower.net