When I lived in West Africa in 2008, I visited an old friend from high school living in Northern Ghana. I knew she had started a charity, but I had no idea to what extent. After seeing the work she does in Ghana, and now helping her build and share her story in Canada, I know that Shannen O’Brian has done what we often think is impossible; she has changed the world.
Shannen started Create Change in 2007 after meeting hundreds of young girls who could not afford to go to school. She knew that she could find people back in Canada to support them (it is, after all, only $200 to send a girl to school for a year), so she set out on a journey that has opened all of our eyes. Create Change now provides over 1,000 girls in Northern Ghana with the school tuition and supplies they need to finish high school and go on to university. Four of those girls are now in Canada on a 6 week speaking tour, sharing their stories with thousands of people, hoping their message will inspire us all to give. I was fortunate enough to spend time with the girls on the Sunshine Coast when they first arrived, helping them develop their story presentations. I also held a story evening at my home, raising money and awareness for girls like Faiza, Fayudatu, Gladys and Beatrice.
But that’s not all! Shannen has also found a way to revolutionize the way we shop and change the way we give. She is partnering with top businesses in Vancouver, including hotels, restaurants and artists, to create a social enterprise that gives 100% of all profits to charity. Shannen wants ‘Giving’ to be a natural part of our day; it shouldn’t be something we do once a year, or as little as 1% of our annual income. It should be easy, and it should be personal. Karma Exchange recently launched in Vancouver and the girls from Ghana are a tour called “For Our Daughters” which will be made into a documentary. The finale will be held at The Vogue on November 23rd.