Be the Change

Speakers Inspire Youth to be Positive Forces for Change | February 9, 2009


Michel Chikwanine, a political refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, will share his story of war, escape, and hope at Xavier University’s Cintas Center at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23, as part of the University’s Africa Awareness Week. The address is free and open to the public. The 21-year-old Chikwanine, who now lives in Canada, inspires youth to be a positive force in the world and to believe in their ability to enact change. He will be joined by Katie Meyler of Scranton, NJ, who has been engaged in humanitarian work since high school. Both work with the international non-profit organization Free The Children, headquartered in Toronto.
Michel grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo amidst great atrocities, including the torture of his father. Carried away to become a child soldier, he escaped and became a political refugee at age 11. In 2004, after five years of hiding in Uganda, Michel, his mother and younger sister were granted a one-way ticket to Canada by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They have made their home in Ottawa, Ontario, where Michel attended St. Patrick’s High School and won the Spirit of the Capital Youth Award for Personal Courage. Recently he captivated a crowd of over 7,500 youth and educators with his keynote address at Free The Children’s “National Me to We Day.”
Both Michel and Katie focus on our capacity to be agents of change in the world. In addition to the keynote speech, they will hold a workshop for 25 local youth leaders, college and high-school age, to teach them tools in social change and to provide them an opportunity to re-imagine social structures. The workshop, from 4:00 to 6:00, is also sponsored by the Youth Empowerment Network, and will be held on the Xavier campus at no charge. Local youth leaders or educators with an interest in attending should contact by February 17.
For more information on either event contact Gillian Ahlgren, Professor of Theology and advisor to the Youth Empowerment Network, at