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Local teen hopes to 'be the change'

Madeleine Clarkson inspired by youth event about change

A simple Swahili phrase is the root of one New Westminster teen's dream and goal in life: Kuwa Mabadiliko (be the change).

Madeleine Clarkson, 14, attended We Day last September at B.C. Place. It was a Me To We youth event, which is a social enterprise that works to educate youth and consumers to help break the cycle of poverty around the world.

After attending the event, Clarkson was both intrigued and inspired. When she caught wind of a three-week trip next summer to Kenya to build a school with Me to We, she just had to do it.

That trip has now sparked a yearlong fundraiser for Clarkson, who needs $6,000 for it and all the vaccinations.

"It'll be a lifechanging experience, and it'll really open my eyes," she told The Record in a phone interview. "I know the statistics of poverty, and their education or lack of education, but you never get to see it with your own eyes. It never seems real until you actually see it. It'll be an amazing experience. I'm so excited."

Once she decided to commit to raising $6,000 for the trip, Clarkson started a blog to keep people up to date on her next fundraiser.

"I started the blog when I decided to go on the trip because I wanted to make it easier for people to follow me and what I'm doing," the Glenbrook Middle School student explained. "It was for family and friends, to keep them updated, and to have a site where people can make donations."

Clarkson has done fundraising by way of car washes, bake sales, T-shirt sales and even a book sale to reach her goal. She'll be putting up posters around the community for future big events and updating her blog.

"This year I'm hoping to have a big fundraiser, maybe a dinner event," she said. "Or maybe a poetry slam held at a local café, where people who participate are given a scene or an issue to write about, and we charge admission for people who want to come."

So far, Clarkson is one-third of the way there, having already raised $2,000.

"Once I reach my goal I'll probably slow down - it's a busy year," she said. "If I make over my amount, well, if there's any left over I'll donate it to Free the Children."

Clarkson said when she makes it to Africa she'll get to build a school brick by brick for people who otherwise do not receive an education like Canadians do.

"I'm really looking forward to meeting the people there and interacting with them," she explained about her hopeful trip to Kenya next summer. "I can't wait to see how different they live compared to how I live."

"I'm so excited." When Clarkson is all grown up - although by the way she conducts herself and speaks you'd think she was much older - the natural at science says she hopes to someday work in the medical field.

"I have a dream. It may not happen, but it's a dream," Clarkson said. "I want to be a doctor and be able to go to Kenya on one of those missions and work in a hospital there."

Clarkson first got involved with the Free the Children Club at school, which at the time was called the Me to We Club, and it's how she got involved with Me to We. She's been involved with the Youth in Action Summit and Take Action Academy.

"Instead of thinking of yourself completely, you put yourself in other people's shoes. It's about making a difference in the community and globally," she noted of the organization's goal.

Clarkson said that the Me to We philosophy strikes a chord within her and she strives to be a better person every day.

"Before you make a difference, you have to change within yourself," she explained. "Lately, I've been really focusing on the Me to We philosophy. I smile a lot and try to be positive."

Besides the Me to We organization, Clarkson said she owes it to her team for making the fundraising she's already done possible.

"I'd really like to say thank you to them," Clarkson said of her close friends and family members who have seen her through all of her fundraisers. "I couldn't do this without them."

To find out more or to donate towards her cause visit her blog at www.madeleinelclarkson.

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