Project aims to fight hopelessness by shedding positive light on unsung heroes

World maps and mementos from countries she’s visited in the past decorate the four walls of Kate McKenzie’s classroom, giving it a global feel that is appropriate for a current events instructor.

The 27-year-old bubbly Red Deer native is cool and collected discussing the project that will see her travel to 10 countries in eight months, leaving everything behind.

“I have an amazing life, I absolutely love what I do; I love teaching,” said McKenzie. “I am leaving a lot behind, but I think too that that is also how much I believe in this project.”

For the past three years, McKenzie has been hearing her students say that they felt hopeless about the world because of the issues and bad news it faces. The Alice Jamieson Girls Academy Grade 8 teacher plans to change their worldviews by taking action.

The Worldviews Project, created by McKenzie, is about fighting hopelessness through action. She will be seeking out and documenting what she calls community leaders who are innovating creative solutions that bring people together and create positive change.

“What I am trying to show is that people can have huge impact on their own neighbourhood and on their own community just by taking one step towards doing one small action that could make their space a little bit better,” said McKenzie.

She said the question that fuels the whole project is: What can anybody do and how can they get involved? This is why McKenzie adds that sometimes people just need to see a positive example of what someone else did in their area and how they got started.

Her goal is to answer that question by providing numerous examples of those inspirational unsung heroes that have made their community brighter.

“You realize people are hungry for inspiration, they are hungry for examples and mentorship,” said McKenzie.

“These ideas don’t have to be profound, you don’t have to win the Nobel Peace Prize in order to make a difference. That’s what I am trying to show.”

Grade 8 teacher Kate McKenzie plans to inspire her students by traveling around the world in the hopes of finding unsung heroes that are making a positive difference.
Photo by: Andy Sogge
McKenzie’s own steps in search of good news will have her trekking to Colombia, Italy, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, Rwanda, Uganda, Vietnam, India and Papa New Guniea. While one month will be spent in most of those countries, McKenzie will be devoting one month total to both Iran and Pakistan, and another to both Rwanda and Uganda.

“I wanted to find countries from all sorts of different worldviews, different socio-economic backgrounds, different cultural backgrounds, different religious backgrounds, so that I could really show that all people from all races, from all perspectives, all have really great solutions,” said McKenzie.

The first stage of the Worldviews Project is happening in Calgary. McKenzie is working with her Grade 8 students to find and film local community leaders that are doing positive initiatives. Her students will then showcase these documentaries at the Reel World Youth Documentaries Film Festival on Dec. 1 and 2.

McKenzie’s students are just as excited as their teacher is about this project. Ayesha Nawaz, a Grade 8 student, said she is now motivated to do more to make the world a more positive place because of her teacher’s actions.

“I think it is really inspiring for us,” said Nawaz. “Because of her, now I want to do something like that.”

Suzanne Ghorbanpour, another student, who has also been inspired by her teacher, said that good news is very important to share in the world, especially today.

“She is going out to all the countries finding good news to spread to all of us,” said Ghorbanpour.

McKenzie will be fundraising to offset some of the costs of traveling, such as gear. She has also been utilizing various types of social media to connect with more than just her students, so that others can be inspired by the positive stories she finds.

“Originally I thought, ‘Well yes, I will influence my students, that will be good,’ and now it has gotten bigger and bigger,” said McKenzie.

McKenzie also said she recently heard someone say that this era would be called the era of fear, because of terrorism and the demand for increased security in the world today, which is something she strongly disagrees with.

“I don’t want to be the era of fear; I don’t want that to be what my generation is called,” said McKenzie. “I don’t believe that we need to live in that kind of fear. I believe that there actually is hope.”

asiad@cjournal.ca