2006 - 2017 I.O.O.F. Educational Pilgrimage for Youth

Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Educational Pilgrimage for Youth

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Each delegate will be limited to one (1) piece of luggage,
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2017 Tour 

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NYC Itinerary
Buses 1 - 3
Buses 4 - 5
Quick Link 2013 Winning Speeches
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50th Reunion
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2013 Winning Speeches

Congratulations to all winners and thanks for submitting these winning speeches for publication.

On behalf of the winners, We Thank the I.O.O.F. Educational Foundation for your continued support in awarding these deserving young people with these Scholarships.

All recipients were informed that these would not be given until documentation was provided that they had enrolled into classes and was actually attending the college or university of their choice.

Week 1
First Place-$1,000 Scholarship (USD): Sophia Solano from Oregon sponsored by Ocean Lodge No. 245 and Seafoam Rebekah Lodge No. 250, "...and the world will live as one."
I can indisputably claim that every one of you in this room is privileged, if for no other reason than the fact you had the opportunity to come on this trip. Being surrounded by opportunities in our day to day lives can often make us forget how fortunate we really are. We understandably, but not rightfully, take a lot for granted. However, the unfortunate truth of the matter is that an enormous amount of children suffer the dire ramifications of actions and events completely out of their control ever day, all of which consist of physical, emotional, or mental strain. These sufferings include child labor, child trafficking, and severe poverty, usually resulting in malnutrition. Although I am sure this is not new information for you, I have now clearly informed you again of the existence of these tragedies, you have no claim to ignorance, and therefore, as humans and leaders of tomorrow, it has become the responsibility of you and I to do what we can to eradicate these blatant violations of innate human rights. I believe in the power of numbers. To quote Aesop, "In union there is strength." When I hear a name like the United Nations, United is the word that sticks out to me, for I believe it is the key to success. In the words of Helen Keller, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." Of the organizations that have figured this out, the United Nations is undeniably the most accomplished in their endeavors to alleviate the challenges that the youth of today are faced with. United Nation programs can be directly accredited with events such as the passing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and the World Summit for Children to raise awareness of the problems and encourage countries to commit to the improvement of children's lives all over the globe. The Convention on the Rights of the Child became law in 166 countries within only four years of being passed. Following the World Summit for Children, more than 150 countries committed to more than 20 "specific and measurable" goals to improve lives of youth. More specific examples of the United Nations' achievements include raising the literacy rates of females in developing countries from 36% in 1970 to 72% in 2000, the support of more than 5000 projects steadily through the UN Development Programme, and maintaining a budget of more than 800 million dollars a year through UNICEF to spend on immunizations, health care, nutrition and basic education in 138 countries. The United Nations is incontrovertibly a huge component in the struggle to eliminate the barbaric treatment of youth in the world, but we must remember that these are individuals who have come together, who have united, to make a difference, because the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts. In my lifetime, I have had many incredible opportunities for service in many communities. I have been able to participate in little things like donating food to the local soup kitchen put on by the National Honor Society, but also have been able to experience rescue missions for endangered sea turtle species on the East coast of Costa Rica. However, the most beautiful thing I had exposure to was a home for children with troubled home lives in the mountains of Costa Rica. My largest contribution was simply my time, but it was what these children craved. My new friend was an eight year old girl named Fabiola. We made crafts and sang songs and played pretend house... in a pretend house. But it was not what I taught her that stuck with me. It was what she taught me. At the time, I had not fully learned Spanish, but through all the language barriers, I understood her. Through even her unspoken words I felt the pain of her poverty, the torture of separation from her family, and the yearn for love and attention that was ingrained in her soul. We heard about the importance of raising awareness from every speaker this week. My friend Fabiola made me uncomfortably aware of the disasters of poverty. As we are young ourselves, there are only a few things we have complete control over, and the way we use our voice is one. I implore you, brothers and sisters, to dedicate what energy you can to this mutual cause, in order to not only create a more peaceful and stable world for ourselves and the rest of our generation, but for generations to come. I would like to end with the famous words of John Lennon: "They may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live as one."
Second Place-$500 Scholarship (USD): Luke Fong from California, Sponsored by Eureka Lodge No. 32, Oregon
Over the last few days we have heard many excellent speakers discussing the global issues of child poverty, child trafficking and forced child labor, and what their organizations and UN organizations are doing to right these blights in the world. I would like to share with you tonight a little bit about one organization that I have researched and also what is being done about these things in my community. The organization I would like to tell you about is Jabulani Africa Missions, or JAM. They are located in South Africa, and their goal, in their own words, is to relieve the cross of Africa with the cross of Christ. To this end they run camps for children in South Africa. At these camps children can receive safety, food, lessons, and lots of love from the workers there. Also, JAM is working in the cities. If you know about South Africa, you know that it has had a very violent history. In the cities there is a lot of gang violence. JAM fights this by teaching the younger children in the cities to not join the gangs, and also show the older ones how much harm is being caused. This has had a marked impact in the cities violence. Finally, JAM helps to end forced child labor by investigating the areas in South Africa that could be engaged in such practices, and puts a stop to it when they can. I would now like to talk about what is being done in my community. I have been blessed to grow up in a very nice area in California, where there is no child trafficking or forced child labor, and little poverty. Now, most of the work I do in my community is to help the poor, and I do the work through and with my church. We work with a local organization known as Lighthouse, who we often help to deliver and pass out supplies. We also have regular drives to gather things that are needed, ranging from food to toilet paper. But recently my church has taken a new direction. A few months ago my father and the head pastor of our church went on a missions trip to India. While there, they found out about the CSW, or Commercial Sex Worker villages. There are 52 CSW villages. In these villages, the entire income for the whole village is earned by prostitution of girls. These girls range from age 8 to 25. In these villages, there are no fathers, only pimps selling out the girls. For a short time the boys and girls live together, but all too soon the girls are sold and the boys are their customers. Moreover, since the girls are born into these villages, they think that it is normal, and even that a normal marriage is bad. They cannot break the cycle that they are caught in. however, my church has decided to help one of these villages, Bikram Ganj. We are, literally right now, working a fireworks booth with the money going to fund building a Community Action Center in this village. This Community Action Center would serve as both a school and a church, and our hope is to purify Bikram Ganj and break its vicious cycle. But that is not all. We are also trying to get other churches in our community to each take a village under their care. Our hope and prayer is to eventually put an end to all 52 CSW villages. So, I hope I've shown you some of the work being done around the world to help children. And before I end, I would like to talk about what you and I can do. It is easy to hear of the big problems of the world and the big things being done to fix them, and think that you need to join one of these big organizations. And if you can help them, do so! But if you can't, then help those around you in your own community, especially the poor. For man does not live by bread alone. We must love our neighbors as ourselves, and their children as our own. By doing this, we can help many in our own towns and communities, just as the UN and these other organizations are doing worldwide. Thank you.
Week 2
First Place-$1,000 Scholarship (USD): Bhagyashree Ramesh from Alberta Sponsored by Zone 3
My friends and I often complain about homework and tests, the lack of time and the constant breathing down our necks from our parents. These ideas, or freedoms so readily available to us are not acquirable, around the the world, to 300, 000 children because they have been recruited or kidnapped as child soldiers, 17 million children due to some sort of displacement and 600 million children due to poverty. These children do not have a voice, they remain faceless and nameless due to their socioeconomic or political status. Poverty takes away the dignity and freedom a citizen of any nation has; displacement takes away an individual's identity and security and involuntary military recruitment of a child destroys hope and innocence. All of these circumstances also take away any aspirations of a future and frequently jeopardizes the life of the child. How does this relate to you and me? What is being done? And, what can we do? With approximately 1.3 billion individuals living below the poverty line this is an issue that is devastating our world. With 600 million young minds lacking intellectual and physical nourishment we have the equivalent amount of potential disintegrating alongside the flux of time. Within the past ten years we've seen the usage of over 10,000 children in Sierra Leone; 70, 000 children in Myanmar and currently over 11,000 children are fighting with guerrilla armies in Colombia. So how does that relate to you? I can't speak for all of you, but if you believe that children deserve the basic right to education, a family, and a safe environment to grow up in, then your beliefs align with the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and you feel that no child should have to compromise their futures. So, what is being done? Currently UNICEF, UNHCR, the Human Rights Council alongside various NGO's are working to provide health and education programs for children and women in developing countries, and the IMF and WB are providing incentives for developing nations to solve deficit crises. Alleviating debt concerns leaves less room for rebel groups to find reasons to go against majority government, meaning less exploitation of children from underground organizations. And as Mr. Donald Lee, Ms. Michelle Sorbaki and Ms. Jessica O'Haren have illustrated, there has been a gradual decline in the negative tallies, clear progress in the right direction, and the Millennium Development Goals for 2015 are viable, but only to the extent at which we perceive the feasibility. The problem of poverty remains a pressing issue mainly due to the exponential population increase. Expatriation continues to be a contention as we've so recently seen with Syria and as we will see again with Egypt. And the need for cheap labour and easy military power due to political strife keeps rebel groups on the the search for displaced children. With this being said, our ability to make a collective difference in the lives of millions is more present and feasible than ever before. The time of ignorance is over, we live in the age of media and networking, and we, as a collective, as citizens of different nations, and as people caring for other people, we have the responsibility driven by concern and morality to be informed, to not turn away from the truth and to raise awareness by telling our friends and families. We can give voices to those who have none. Frequently it seems that the most we can do is send some cash to an organization and hope for the best, but you can choose the country, the amount and the services you wish to provide, helping poverty stricken communities anywhere. In Calgary, we've promoted the 'Because I am a Girl Program' which promotes the inclusion of girls and women in economy and governance helping empower young girls and reduce global poverty. I pledge to continue advocating for women's and children's rights as I have been doing so within my community and on an international blog. I plan on dedicating my life to the betterment of society and the promotion of human rights, and I believe this opportunity has been a truly profound stepping stone. The problems children face today extend beyond the three I have addressed; we cannot sit complacently as millions of children around the world suffer. Even if they are the not children of our nation, they are the the future. And for as long as the futures are being taken from the children, the future of our world is at stake. I'd like to dedicate this speech to Ishmael Beah, once a displaced child soldier living in extreme poverty, now an advocate for the children who remain without a voice today.
Post Script: I would once again like to express my gratitude at being a part of such an incredible program; thank you for running such an educational, well-organized space for youth from all over to become internationally involved and aware, I had an amazing time!
Bhagya Ramesh
Second Place-$500 Scholarship (USD): Francis "Ali" Chature from Ontario sponsored by Broadview Lodge No. 294, "A Life of Poverty."
Imagine having to live off $1.25 a day for the rest of your life. According to the World Bank, $1.25 is the maximum daily income of those living in extreme poverty. For over 1.3 billion around the world, this is their reality. Approximately 50% of these people are children. In a life of poverty, children are the ones who are affected the most, and their futures are most at stake. Good evening ladies and gentlemen, tonight we will be discussing the issue of poverty as a multi-dimensional issue, the work of the United Nations worldwide, and what we can do to make sure no one is left behind. Firstly, poverty is not a single sided issue; it is something that impacts ever aspect of one's life. When living in poverty, there are many issues including health, inadequate living conditions, and the lack of education. On the topic of health, we in North America and Europe often take our health for granted. While we are able to eat and waste as much as we want, those in impoverished counties tend to be able to feed only one family member. In these situations, children are rarely the ones who eat as their parents are the ones who work. Furthermore, the lack of clean water is a huge issue, with children forced to walk miles just to access clean water. Finally, illnesses and diseases take the lives of many children. As heard from Ms. Jessica O'Haran, 3.4 million under the age of 18 live with HIV/AIDS, and a majority cannot access proper healthcare. Secondly, inadequate living conditions are another face of poverty. Children in poverty tend to lack proper family structure. Due to this deprivation, children are more vulnerable to exploitation and forced labour. Additionally, in war-torn countries, children are stuck in the middle. According to Ms. Michelle Surondy, over 15.4 million around the world are refugees, and more than half of them are children. These problems do not provide a proper place to live or grow up. Finally, the lack of education is the most threatening aspect of poverty concerning a child's future. For many children, education is not an option: they have no school or resources for learning. This blocks a child's future, and worsens the chances of them being lifted out of poverty. Additionally, in situations where children have families who are struggling, they often don't have the opportunity to attend school. If school is available, girls are usually not allowed to go. This discrimination and deprivation steals the opportunity for these girls to have a bright future. Health issues, inadequate living conditions, and the lack of education are evidence that poverty affects many aspects of a child's life. Though it may seem like poverty is a huge issue to overcome, there is hope. Organizations worldwide provide aid to those living in impoverished countries. For example, the United Nations has 8 Millennium Development Goals meant to combat the pressing issue of poverty. Some goals include the abolishment of extreme poverty, universal education for at least 5 years, and the promotion of gender equality. Furthermore, UNICEF, a branch of the UN, advocates for children's' rights, protections, and education. Their goal of 0, meaning: 0 children denied of education, 0 children lacking clean water, and 0 children dying, is an example of an organization working to eradicate poverty. The United Nations' work allows impoverished children to break through barriers and have a better quality of life. In my religious community of the Sh'ia Ismaili Muslims, there is a deep focus on the elimination of poverty. The Aga Khan Foundation of Canada, or the AKFC, is an Ismaili Organizations that works on the issue of poverty. Annually, the AKFC runs the World Partnership Walk across cities all over Canada, a walk that raises money to send to developing countries in order to improve their quality of life. Since starting, the World Partnership Walk has raised over 82 million dollars. As an Ismaili, I am proud to walk and raise money to end global poverty for children around the world. In conclusion, poverty is an issue that needs to be faced head on. As agents of change, we need to work to ensure that children around the world do not live in poverty, and that they have equal opportunities. Just as Dr. Donald Lee said, "Don't feel sorry, don't feel guilty, be angry." Together, we will make change.