April 28, 2017
April 28, 2017 | Oakville Beaver
Pictured are some of the Selfless 16 ambassadors who are looking to make a big impact in their communities this year. From left: Victoria Vastis, Ankeet Desai, Daria Mosun, Soheila Mosun (founder), Rachael Knuth and Kevin Ding.
While attending a string of lavish Sweet 16s, Soheila Mosun got an idea. “I started thinking about how we have all of these material things, why not put that to good use and help those in need?” says the Grade 11 Appleby College student. “At what point are we going to stop thinking about ourselves and do something to make things better?”
Selfless 16 was born.
Soheila started Selfless 16 to encourage young adults to give back to their community through a milestone event in their lives, their 16th birthday. By replacing the Sweet 16 party with a Selfless 16 celebration, the focus is placed on bringing together youth with their friends and family to celebrate their coming-of-age, while raising awareness and funds for charitable causes that support local and global communities.
Soheila was inspired through service trips she has taken with Appleby College as part of the Diploma with Distinction in Global Leadership program, including travelling to China, Singapore, Malaysia and Peru. Seeing a girl her age at an orphanage on one of those trips had a lasting effect.
“I knew that we were privileged. I understood that. But to actually see how different someone’s life is, no words can express how I felt in that moment,” Soheila said. “I decided to see how I can make things better.”
Selfless 16 celebrations can happen throughout the year and be anything you want them to be.
“It can range from making sandwiches and handing them out to homeless people or a gala with guest speakers raising thousands of dollars,” says Soheila. “It is about the idea of getting beyond yourself and becoming more globally aware.”
And now, Selfless 16 is partnering with The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, Ontario. The award has three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Youth, ages 14 to 24, focus on Community Service, Personal Skill Development, Physical Recreation, Adventurous Journey and Residential Project, earning levels based on activities completed and time commitment.
“Soheila approached us last summer and we thought Selfless 16 was a brilliant idea that dovetails with what Duke of Ed does,” said Jeff Needham, executive director of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, Ontario. “It made a lot of sense to partner with them.”
While you can enroll in Duke of Ed independently, most youth participate through school or youth groups that are affiliated with it. For example, to graduate from Appleby College, students must earn at least a bronze. For the Diploma with Distinction in Global Leadership, you must achieve the gold level.
Needham says Duke of Ed will promote Selfless16 as a way to work toward Duke of Ed requirements and Selfless 16 will tell participants about Duke of Ed.
“Through even setting up Selfless 16, I learned leadership skills, talking with adults, sending proper emails. I learned skills I am so happy to have at this age,” said Soheila.
The word on Selfless 16 is spread though Ambassadors at schools throughout the Halton and Greater Toronto Area. Soheila hopes it will eventually be in all Ontario schools. And though the Sweet 16 is traditionally for girls, Soheila said Selfless 16 is for boys too.
“You can be any race, any culture. You can be from any community,” she says. “It’s about youth getting together to make a change.”