We can all make a real difference in our community. At 16, 22, 40 or 70. Health is a privilege. Helping people who are struggling is a responsibility. That’s the reason I give back and why I try every day to get other members of my generation to do the same. Happy National Philanthropy Day to everyone out there who brings opportunities to life through their drive and determination!

I got my first taste of philanthropy when I was 16, as a high-school student at Collège Saint-Sacrement. That’s when my good friend, Raphaële Maltais, and I were put in charge of our school’s contributions to the Sainte-Justine Private Schools Youth Challenge, an initiative of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation. The funds we raised went to supporting Sainte-Justine’s trauma care unit.

Over the course of several weeks, after a lot of time and hard work, our school raised over $92,000. You can imagine how proud I was to announce this result: I’m very competitive by nature and I love a good challenge! But I’ll admit I hadn’t yet appreciated the full extent of what had just happened.

Not too long after that, Raphaële and I had the chance to visit the Marie Enfant Rehabilitation Centre, where we saw for ourselves everything that the donations to the Sainte-Justine Private Schools Youth Challenge made possible in terms of acquiring high-tech equipment and all of the incredible benefits for the families and the teams of healthcare professionals.

Seeing up close how much of an impact my efforts had is what changed everything. That’s when I really caught the philanthropy bug.

One opportunity after another sprung up after that: I took part in a focus group to rethink the Sainte-Justine Private Schools Youth Challenge, sat on a philanthropy panel and helped to host the closing ceremonies of the Foundation’s Healing More Better campaign.

Djammy Charles credit Genevieve Giguere
Djammy Raphaele cloture PMG2 credit G Giguere 2446 2
Djammy Raphaele cloture PMG2 credit G Giguere 2446 3
Djammy Raphele Cloture PMG credit G Giguere

These were amazing learning experiences for Raphaële and me. We even won the 2017 Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy in the Under 18 category from the Quebec chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. All this also meant that we knew we would continue to be there for Sainte-Justine, for as long as they needed us!

These days, I’m a student at HEC Montréal, and I’m still an active volunteer. In March 2020, when the pandemic hit and put all of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation’s events on hold, I rolled up my sleeves. I contacted the HEC Montréal student association (AEHEC) to ask them to support Sainte-Justine. They were kind enough to accept and issued a $10,000 cheque to the Foundation.

As I have become more influential in my student community, I have been able to turn the partnership between AEHEC and the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation into a more formal arrangement. As a result of these efforts, HEC Montréal’s Humanitarian Week decided to make the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation its recipient charity. Total student donations came to $132,000 in 2021 and $139,000 in 2022.

AEHEC 1
AEHEC 2

In 2020 and 2021, I had the honour of mentoring students through the Fédération des établissements d’enseignement privés (FEEP) in connection with the Sainte-Justine Youth Tree of Lights campaign. My goal was to motivate and guide schools in their fundraising efforts. I was even interviewed by Rythme to get the Youth Tree of Lights message out to the public. Today, I’m incredibly proud to see that FEEP students are back at it for a third year in a row as part of the campaign running now until November 27, 2022.

This isn’t meant to be a list of the times I helped out with a CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation campaign. What I’m really trying to get across here is that, without the help of my peers, none of this would have been possible. The fact that thousands of students at the high-school and university level did their part is what has fuelled, and I hope will continue to fuel, this momentum among our young people. Together, we can change the world!

The way I see it, there’s nothing more powerful than youth helping youth. Young people who give back to the community are a source of hope for the future. They realize that they can be the change and make the change they want to see in the world.

Djammy Charles

*The remarks expressed in this article reflect the opinion solely of the author and should not be considered as representative of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.