So many teens are given a hard time for their sense of entitlement, self-absorption and social media obsession.
Yet when I saw a post on Facebook by Brennon Thwaites, it was not about himself or some thinly veiled reference to his love life.
Instead, Brennon had posted on a public page for the local community about his penny drive.
Brennon was using social media to ask for donations of pennies towards a Free the Children fundraiser to help provide clean drinking water to people in developing countries.
It impressed me, and I messaged Brennon for him to call me and tell me about the project and what he was up to.
One of the first things Brennon said to me was “It’s not about me.” He emphasized how it was a group project, something the Free the Children group at his school in Vanderhoof was working on, and he was only doing his part.
Brennon was one of the group who attended We Day in Vancouver in October. He took the bus down with the students from Fort St. James, Vanderhoof and Fraser Lake for the event.
“It was amazing,” he said about the event. “It was really inspiring to make change.”
The speakers at the event all made powerful impressions on him, and narrowing it down to a favourite would be difficult, but Brennon remembered Marc and Craig Kielburger, the brothers who founded the Free the Children Foundation.
It was their explanation of the need for clean water and how really inexpensive it is to do the projects which especially struck a chord.
It is only $25 Canadian to give someone clean water for their lifetime, explained Brennon, a fraction of what most Canadians spend on their monthly cell phone bills.
So the pennie drive made sense to Brennon and the rest of the Free the Children group in Vanderhoof.
“We figured it would be a really easy way to raise money,” said Brennon. With so many people keeping pennie jars, it made sense to try and put those pennies to good use providing clean water to those in need.
The group is directing their funds to Ecuador, where some of the group is going next year to help build a school.
Brennon has participated in other campaigns the group has done in the past as well. He started out in Grade 9 doing the Vow of Silence, when students pledge to spend the day not speaking – some even include text messages in their pledge – to raise awareness for those in other countries who do not have the right to speak out.
This year, Brennon has pledged to take the Vow of Silence for 24 hours. The campaign attempts to raise awareness around children’s rights issues.
He is also selling Rafiki chains, which are beaded friendship chains. Each one helps raise enough money for a person in a developing country to have clean water for a year.
So while in many ways, Brennon Thwaites is your stereotypical 16-year-old, with an iPhone at the ready, he is also a great example of what youth are capable of.
Brennon said his interest in helping people in other countries started with World Vision commercials showing poverty-stricken children in other parts of the world.
“That idea has been able to keep on motivating me,” he said.
So while some teens are working on figuring out how they are going to be able to get to the next big party, Brennon and his fellow Free the Children group at Nechako Valley High School will be cutting out silhouettes to represent the missing women along the Highway of Tears and collecting pennies so teens in other countries can enjoy the luxury of clean water.
The next time a person repeats a stereotype about today’s youth, think of Brennon and other Free the Chidren group members working towards a better world.
Brennon Thwaites can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org to donate pennies.