The Blog of Daniel Francavilla

Design. Charity. Life.

Going Digital with Activism: Women’s Rights 0

Posted on September 23, 2012 by Daniel Francavilla

Actress and Women’s Rights Activist Maria Bello spoke about her involvement helping the people of Haiti – and the powerful impact of social media – at the Social Good Summit.

In the discussion with Brian Sirgutz, Co-Founder & Editor of The Huffington Post’s Impact, Maria explained how she always thought she would do Law. She began her career as an activist at Villanova University, where she majored in Peace and Justice Education and worked at the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia. However, she took an acting class and suddenly knew that’s what she was supposed to do – act.

She was worried about not being able to make a difference, but then was given one great piece of advice:

You serve best doing the thing you love most.

Follow your talent and destiny, and leverage it to do good work, she was told. And she did. Eventually, she ended up in Haiti. 

“When I put my foot on the ground in Haiti, I knew I was fucked.” Maris says this because at that point, she knew it would be hard for her to  leave – she has a great family of support in Haiti with the community and other activists.

When it Haiti, she was asked to start something for Women. She noticed that all the big organizations doing stuff (with access to millions of dollars) did not have anything for women, and was frustrated that these women were not getting the help they would deserve.

“I was pissed off that the women’s groups in Haiti, who were most organized, weren’t getting the access and funding they deserved,” Bello said in her presentation.

So, she started something, which asks the community, “What is it that you need?”. So far they have graduated 200 students, and have a waiting list of 800. Half the people that have graduated already have their first jobs. Students then go teach a few others about Health, Hyena, Human Rights, Gender-Based Violence.

Right after the Earthquake, there was a big disconnect with all the NGOs – even if Red Cross was down the street, the women wouldn’t know what services they offer. They built an online system with resources and contacts. This is all part of the online system they are building, called We Advance University.

Now, the organization is provide texting services for women who have been abused, sending out notifications and sourcing help within their community – just one of many ways Maria has made an impact.

How Will Millennials Save the World? 1

Posted on September 22, 2012 by Daniel Francavilla

Are youth tired of being told things like Find Your Passion, Have an Impact, and Be the Change? That’s what Adora Svitak says, as a 15-year-old author, teacher, speaker and activist who delivered a great speech at the Social Good Summit in New York City. (You can read my Interview with Adora here).

Really, youth don’t want to be told what they should do for social good. “We want our world to have confidence in us,” Adora explains.

What can a 15-year old girl do, sitting in Language class at school? She can do something – or her dream will go to waste. Like the poem, A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes:

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore–And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over–like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?

Youth Empowerment is not a #FirstWorldProblem (a great twitter reference by Adora – that hashtag drives me crazy and is always so ignorant). We want to transcend our boundaries, and do things not only for a college admissions reviewer, Adora says.

For the last 3 years (since giving her TED talk on What Adults Can Learn from Kids), Adora has organized TEDxRedmond with about 20 other teens (every speaker is under age 20). I’ve seen her mention this on Twitter, and watched her talk on YouTube. The best part of this – which Microsoft has provided them their Conference Centre – is that it is all about a message, not just a conference. It allows youth to realize that they have power to give a voice to ideas for social good.

The future: “We’re connected, reasonably informed, and leap towards opportunities to make a difference.”

How can a generation consumed by our smartphones and “narcissistic blogs” make a difference? Adora says we’re not hopeless – our devotion to creating individuality may not be a weakness. She explains that when younger, children did good things (fundraiser at school, for example) because everyone did them – but now, teenagers see doing social good as a part of their overall self image.

“I’m seeing teens that are not waiting for the go-ahead from their parents,” Adora stated. But are we just doing this for our image? “No, it’s part of our identity – we’ve seen posters telling us to recycle and save trees for years, for example. We choose to define ourselves by the social good that we do.”

Image and Identity are the two components. Online, for example, ideas spread. People share, like, comment, react. But, youth are also taking concrete action to make a difference.

For non-profits, governments and causes, reaching an audience where they are – and not making them come to you – is a necessity. There are many websites that look like crap, are un-engaging, or fail to connect to the young demographic online (which is why I did my thesis on this).

Adora mentioned that her speech was “a privilege I would like more millennials to have”, and I can relate. It’s inspiring and motivating to get involved in a cause where you can have a positive impact; and engage millennials in doing social good.

Ultimately, for youth to “save the world” they need to feel ownership, discover the issues on their own, and be empowered to do so. Youth need to be given 3 things, Adora defines;

“Give youth a stage, a role, and a voice.”

Read Activism at Any Age: Interview with Adora

Local Democracy Week: Power to raise voices, knock on doors and make change 2

Posted on December 02, 2009 by Daniel Francavilla

Students learn that democracy, at its heart and soul, is about people’s voices

By Daniel Francavilla
Toronto Star Global Voices

Imagine having no voice. No vote for a political party, no say in where your tax money is spent and no way of stopping daily injustice. Thankfully, Canada is a democratic country and citizens, including youth, have the power to effect positive change in their communities and beyond.

Local Democracy Week, which concluded November 27 in Toronto, addressed such issues as voter apathy and the disconnect between politics and everyday life. Ontario MPPs had the opportunity to invite students from a high school in their riding to take part in events hosted at Queen’s Park and Toronto City Hall, alongside special guests including Toronto Mayor David Miller and Craig Kielburger.

Read the Full Article Published on

Daniel-Francavilla and Craig-Kielburger at local Democracy Week 2009 (Photo: Anastasia Tolias)

Craig Kielburger and Daniel Francavilla at Local Democracy Week 2009 (Photo: Anastasia Tolias)

All you need is Peace 0

Posted on July 10, 2009 by Daniel Francavilla

Youth promoting peace as activists today

Winning Submission for Project Ploughshares contest for the 2009 Global Youth Assembly

Have you ever been at peace? Some believe peace is simply the absence of war. Yes, war is treacherous battle and conflict. But when there is no war, is there peace? Suffering continues; oppression, discrimination, disrespect and hatred still exist. This is not peace.

Do you think that those who live in a developed country, not at war in years, are at peace? You may be fortunate enough to live in a peaceful home with loving parents and more than enough food. But even within the most affluent communities lie conflict, greed, envy, and violent abuse.

There are societies where thousands will chant and cheer for a team to win a football game, but where none will do so to end genocide. We know there are terrible things occurring ever day – many choose to ignore this. But it is up to the youth of today to set standards and determine the level of peace for our future. Youth will be left with the problems of our current world leaders. Positive action must begin today. That is why we are called to ignite the power within ourselves to make change now.

Can we promote peace when we buy products that support a corporation’s use of child labour or degrade the environment? Challenging, but we can support alternatives like the Fair Trade movement. While there are many roadblocks to being a true peacemaker, change starts within each of us as individuals. It is possible to “fight” for peace without war. When we come together in peace, we are strong enough to make substantial change.

Overwhelming and daunting tasks of “changing the world” are presented to youth today. Many of us choose to avoid the call to action, simply because of the enormous size of the tasks to solve the world’s issues. However, these tasks can be approached from another level – by thinking globally but acting locally, we can more attainably move towards a better world. We must not give up when faced with challenges like providing nourishment to a village in Malawi, or sending 50 students to school in Colombia, or even protecting endangered species in Northern Canada. In fact, Anthropologist Margaret Mead made it very clear when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


There are governments around the world that promise major action. There are multi-national corporations that commit to social responsibility. However for a true, sustainable, tangible difference, “we must be the change we wish to see in the world” as Gandhi so wisely stated. Many authoritative adults and powerful organizations can be doubtful and pessimistic. This has always been true. However, more damage will be done if we do not convince them to take necessary action, instead of waiting our turn in their position. We are the leaders, not only of tomorrow, but also of today.

Many youth crave the glamorous celebrity lifestyle – yet greed is a deterrent of peace. This need for more is known as affluenza. A video on “teenage affluenza” displays middle-class children being unsatisfied with everyday privileges. When compared to those who have less, however, these complaints seem utterly ridiculous – a boy complains about his outdated PlayStation 2, while another boy’s only toy is a brass bombshell casing; a girl is embarrassed by the 1980′s Toyota Corolla her mother drives her to school in, when a girl around the world leads her blind mother home on a dark road at night after a day of begging. For peace to be achieved, everything should be put into perspective.

In high school I had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic on an “exposure trip”. While most know this as a tropical vacation destination, I had the chance to experience what life is like in the developing world. Witnessing the joy within these people, despite their impoverished situations, allowed me to realize that peace and happiness do not come from having the latest technology, driving a luxury vehicle, or living in a classy condo.

Today’s youth must break the stereotype of being apathetic. There are plenty of young people taking action around the world today. From local community service to online campaigns to international volunteer trips, youth are making a difference right now. We begin spreading peace through simple actions of kindness and generosity. Now, it is our duty to participate and be examples of youth activists for other generations, as we come together to better the world through peace.

Get involved, starting in your city 0

Posted on June 28, 2009 by Daniel Francavilla

The City of Brampton, Ontario (one of Canada’s fastest growing cities) recognizes citizens in the community who have made achievements throughout the year. There is everything from the Sports Achievement Award and the Arts Acclaim Award to the Long Term Service Award – for people who have volunteered for over 25 years!

This May, I was honoured to receive the Humanitarian Award. Local lawyer Rob Filkin was awarded Brampton’s Citizen of the Year (read his news article here).

I suggest you get involved  in your city, in one way or another. In Brampton, a selection committee of City Officials, Clergy, Media, Arts Council, Seniors Council and Parks and Recreation staff review nominations every year. More info about the awards is available on the Brampton website’s Awards page.

Citizens-Awards-2009 copyPersonally, I think there should be even more opportunities to award citizens. There are many everyday people, of all ages and backgrounds, that take the extra step that really counts. And with Brampton’s medium age being only around 33 years old, it is the youngest community in the GTA - which is perfect for more youth activism. The city does have a great Mayor who is very supportive of youth!

I have been thinking of  preparing youth awards through Speak Up for Change. Ones that could be awarded to everyday local citizens, making a difference. Yes, there are already plenty of scholarships and prestigious awards out there – but how accessible are they, really?

If you are interested in the idea of a Youth Activism Award, or something along these lines, please share. If you already know somebody who you’d nominate right away, then go ahead and tell!

Really this is not all about Brampton, and it’s not all about youth. It’s about being the change you wish to see in the world. Because if it’s not you, then who?

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