9 women making a difference for young people in Canada

This International Women’s Day, Kids Help Phone is celebrating some of the incredible women who are making a difference in the lives of young people across Canada!

Carol Todd

Carol ToddAfter her daughter, Amanda, died by suicide in 2012, Carol Todd became an advocate for bullying awareness, suicide prevention, online safety and more. She founded The Amanda Todd Legacy Society, a non-profit organization designed to tell Amanda’s story and highlight critical youth issues. Carol is also a true champion for youth mental health and well-being, speaking passionately about her experience with the public and sharing resources (including Kids Help Phone!) with young people across Canada and the world. In doing so, she helps spread the message of hope to ensure no young person’s voice goes unheard. (Don’t forget to #LightUpPurple with Carol on World Mental Health Day this October 10!)

Alessia Cara

Alessia CaraPhoto courtesy of instagram.com/alessiasmusic

“There's a hope that's waiting for you in the dark. You should know you're beautiful just the way you are.” These are the uplifting words from singer/songwriter Alessia Cara’s influential song, “Scars to Your Beautiful.” They helped Alessia win Best New Artist at the 2018 Grammy Awards, making her the first Canadian (!) to do so. Through her empowering lyrics and emotional music videos, Alessia consistently reminds young people they’re not alone. From her humble beginnings on YouTube to making her mark on the international stage, Alessia is leading by example and encouraging youth to reach out for help if and when they need it.

Kathy Hay

Kathy HayDrive. Passion. Focus. These are just some of the words used to describe Kathy Hay, Kids Help Phone’s new President and CEO. Kathy is devoted to the cause, using her community building expertise and (endless) energy to ensure youth across Canada have a place to turn in any moment of crisis or need. Although she’s only been here for a few months, Kathy is already propelling the organization into innovative and uncharted territory. Namely, she helped drive forward the launch of our new texting service in 2018. She’s truly living our values by training to become a volunteer Crisis Responder for this new service, drawing on her personal experience to answer texts directly from youth looking for support. Now that’s a hands-on leader!

Jill Andrew and Aisha Fairclough

Jill Andrew and Aisha FaircloughPhoto courtesy of instagram.com/bodyconfidencecanada

Have you heard of Jill Andrew and Aisha Fairclough? They’re the co-founders of Body Confidence Canada (BCC), a program established to promote body positivity and diversity. They also founded Body Confidence Awareness Week, an initiative that gives school boards and community centres the tools they need to teach young people the importance of embracing their differences and having a positive body image. If you’re looking for more from this dynamic duo, check out Jill and Aisha’s blog and watch for the 2018 Body Confidence Canada Awards!

Ashley Callingbull

Ashley Callingbull-BurnhamPhoto courtesy of instagram.com/ashleycallingbull

Ashley Callingbull’s career includes a lot of firsts. She’s the first Canadian to win the Mrs. Universe competition. This also makes her the first Indigenous woman to win the coveted title. Ashley is using her newfound fame to speak up for Indigenous rights and help young people find their voice. She serves as an inspiration to youth by sharing her story (including her experience with domestic violence) and visiting hospitals, schools and workshops. What are Ashley’s dreams for the future? She plans to build youth centres in Indigenous communities to continue supporting young people. Go Ashley!

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau

Sophie Grégoire TrudeauPhoto courtesy of instagram.com/sophiegregoiretrudeau

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is no stranger to helping young people. After struggling with an eating disorder as a teen, Sophie turned her experience into an opportunity to support youth who may be going through something similar. Whether it’s hosting a fundraiser for Sheena’s Place (a Toronto-based centre for eating disorders support) or becoming the national ambassador for Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” project, Sophie’s goal is to ensure young people are healthy, happy and empowered to take on life’s challenges. At a We Day event in Ottawa, Sophie told 16,000 youth, “I encourage you to really, really love yourself … because you’re all amazing human beings!”

Dr. Debra Pepler

Dr. Debra PeplerShe’s a co-director at PREVNet. She’s a professor at York University. She’s an advocate for healthy relationships and eliminating violence. Is there anything Dr. Debra Pepler can’t do? Debra focuses her research and work on youth issues, particularly bullying, violence and abuse. She’s also a Kids Help Phone board member, lending her skills, research and knowledge to help shape our strategies and policies. With her leadership, clinical expertise and extensive experience with youth, Debra is committed to bullying prevention and increasing the safety of young people across Canada.

Jessica Platt

Jessica PlattPhoto courtesy of instagram.com/jplatt32

Jessica Platt is the first openly transgender athlete to play for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). After sharing her gender identity (via Instagram), lacing up her skates and stepping on the ice, Jessica became a role model for other transgender athletes. In an interview with the Toronto Star, she said, “I think it's important to bring visibility to trans athletes and show people you can still follow your dreams and be who you are meant to be.” The Toronto Furies #11 is also a skating instructor and supports the You Can Play Project (a program for equality and inclusion in sports). Talk about an inspiration!

Melissa Sariffodeen

Melissa SariffodeenPhoto courtesy of instagram.com/melsariffodeen

If you read Melissa Sariffodeen’s LinkedIn profile, you’ll see she’s a businessperson, entrepreneur and advocate of women and youth. She’s also the co-founder and CEO of Canada Learning Code, a non-profit organization that promotes digital literacy for everyone. With the company, Melissa helped launch the educational programs Kids Learning Code and Girls Learning Code. These courses teach youth how to use technology to become change-makers in their own communities. Furthermore, in her TEDx Talk, “The Kids Will be Alright,” Melissa demonstrates how youth learning code can help them succeed, plan for their futures and change the world for the better.

These women are making a difference in the lives of young people across Canada. We hope they inspire and encourage you to effect change in your own communities, too. If you're looking for ways to support youth, you can get involved or make a donation to Kids Help Phone today!