London, Ont., youth group works to help women's shelters and promote gender empowerment

Champions of Change, a London-based youth group, is holding its second 'Purple Box Campaign' to give back to women's shelters at a time of high need during the pandemic.

Champions of Change is having their second annual Purple Box Campaign to donate to women's shelters

Care packages, part of the Purple Box Campaign, are sent to women's shelters in London, Ont., and surrounding areas include toiletries and feminine hygiene products. (Submitted by Aditi Basdeo)

What started out as a high school club, back in 2018, quickly turned into an organization with hundreds of youth.

Champions of Change is a London, Ont., based youth group whose main goal is to create gender empowerment and equality through education. 

They launched the first ever 'Purple Box Campaign' last winter, as a means to give back to women's shelters at a time of high need during the pandemic. They say they raised more than $1, 000 to buy essential items for women and children and they hope to raise at least $4,000 by the end of December. 

"The campaign is really focused on what a shelter needs at a given time, the basic items that we use really quickly and that might need to be replaced, are often times what these shelters are requesting,"  Aditi Basdeo, the group's founder told CBC News. 

The group makes care packages that are sent to shelters in London such as  ANOVA, My Sister's Place, Althosa, and Safe Space London. These include winter clothing, food items, feminine hygiene products, and toiletries.

A passion for social activism

Basdeo, a high school student at the time, started the group because she felt that there wasn't enough awareness about gender equality in a school environment

"I found that people, especially my male peers, were derogatory toward females and would use certain terms, and there was no one having these tough conversations and leading others to activate change." 

Aditi Basdeo started Champions of Change as a high school club in 2018. She had no idea how fast the group would grow (Submitted by Aditi Basdeo)

Champions of Change has curated fundraisers and educational campaigns geared toward kids in elementary schools, to create awareness about gender stereotypes and empowerment from a young age.   

The organization has seen a large number of youth interested in creating change and advocating to amplify the voices of those in marginalized communities. 

"There's so much passion for social activism and a lot of people want to be leaders in that area, specifically within their own communities," said Basdeo. 

The importance of listening

For Basdeo, the most powerful means of change is understanding the importance of listening to the opinions, perspectives and experiences of gender diverse youth. 

"Often times, these groups are so overlooked and not amplified enough in important conversations, I want to ensure that young voices are heard by those in positions of power," she said. 

"We want people to understand what's going on within their cities, and the realities that young women and girls are experiencing."

Some of the team members at Champions of Change. (Submitted by Aditi Basdeo)

Basdeo is most excited to see how youth activists will grow in terms of leading the change for equality by creating a socially conscious generation through a community-centric approach.  

Champions of Change is the process of expanding its reach into cities like Toronto and Hamilton by mentoring youth in those communities and training them to activate the work that has started in London. 

Anyone looking to donate to the campaign can do so at the organization's GoFundMe page.