SASKATOON — Saskatoon Catholic and public schools, Congregation Agudas Israel, and the Saskatoon Human Rights Commission recently commemorated the Power of One, as inspired by Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands in the Second World War.
“We each have the power to make someone’s day better, but we also have the power to make it worse,” noted Natasha Kitchen, a student from Centennial Collegiate in Saskatoon, which hosted the Feb. 5 event. “What are we going to do about it?”
She challenged youth to recognize the Power of One and to make a positive impact by standing up to bullying, welcoming those who feel isolated, and being mindful of daily actions in positively affecting others.
“Even though I am just one person, I believe that we all can make that change and stand up. The things that I have done don’t even compare close to what Raoul Wallenberg did, but I believe that I am making a change and a difference in the world,” noted Kitchen. “So today I challenge each of you to do the same, with just one simple step or act of kindness — to be the movement of change and empower others around you.”
She added that the SRC at Centennial Collegiate has a fundraising initiative to help children go to school.
Paige Chevaldayoff noted that she and other students of St. Joseph Catholic High School in Saskatoon had recently welcomed Syrian refugees, greeting them at the airport, and gathering winter gear such as toques and mittens for the newcomers.
“Understanding of the Power of One is not that we expect you to cure diseases and to end riots and wars, but we help those in need by even the smallest ways possible. Reaching out to make a difference, helping to make others welcome and warm,” said Chevaldayoff. “Because as we all learned today change starts with the Power of One and the difference of one person, so what can you do to help?”
The high school students were responding to the day’s program, which included highlights presented by Heather Fenyes of Congregation Agudas Israel, about Raoul Wallenberg, who saved some 100,000 lives during the Second World War.
An estimated 50,000 of those saved were granted immunity with diplomatic passports and safehouses. Wallenberg additionally undertook humanitarian efforts to establish soup kitchens, hospitals, and orphanages. And finally, when the Nazis were advancing on the Budapest ghettos, “he had the Nazi generals put on notice that they would be held accountable and brought to justice, if not executed, for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Nazi generals desisted from their assault and some 70,000 more Jews were saved, thanks to the indomitable courage of one person prepared to confront radical evil.”
Fenyes noted that the Power of One to make a difference was an inspiration to all of us to follow Wallenberg’s example in as many ways as possible.
Judge David Arnott of the Human Rights Commission echoed her sentiments. Eleisha Muembo, a recent graduate of St. Joseph Catholic High School, shared his story of fleeing Kenya and the Congo as a refugee, and the Power of One to hide him and his family so that they survived to see another day, and ultimately be transported safely to Canada to begin new lives.
“That’s the Power of One, to give another person life each and every day,” he noted, adding that the Syrian conflict seems to him to be even greater than that of the Congo. “I see the pictures and it looks like it is being utterly destroyed, so we need to make a difference to those refugees who have nowhere to go.”
The afternoon also included music provided by the students, who packed the Centennial High School theatre to listen to the messages of the days’ speakers.
“Each of us can make a difference,” stressed Natasha Kitchen. “I think that’s really inspiring and hopeful.”