Naveenta Anand believes in saying yes to her children. She wants them to make their own decisions. Sometimes it’s scary, she admits, but more often, it’s a learning experience for them both.
When her daughter Shreya came home one day asking to go to ME to WE Take Action Camp, Naveenta looked for a way to say yes. Nevermind it was an expense the finance-conscious family could hardly afford. She’d already seen her then-13-year-old daughter transform from a shy young girl into a powerhouse of opinions and ideas.
She knew camp was an opportunity not to be missed.
So she and Shreya applied for a bursary, using the experience as an opportunity to learn financial responsibility. When Shreya returned home from camp months later, it was obvious to Naveenta she’d made the right decision.
“Shreya was a different person,” Naveenta says proudly of her daughter. “She was extremely excited, extremely informed. She was aware of what was happening around the world and energized for social justice.”
Even more powerful than the sense of purpose this Grade 9 student discovered, though, was the community she became a part of.
A testament to that community lies buried in a bag beneath a pile of clothes and shoes in Shreya’s bedroom closet. It remains undisturbed, half forgotten, most days. But when she needs it most—like after a bad day at school or a fight with a friend—it always brings comfort.
It’s her Warm and Fuzzies bag, full of notes from friends and counsellors she met last summer at camp. They’re reminders of the deep connections she’s made and the confident young woman she’s become—a sharp contrast from the shy young woman who was often bullied.
“I was always that person who would be picked on,” Shreya reflects. “I was dealing with a lot of body weight issues, and I felt like I didn’t have a voice.”
The days when Shreya felt powerless are gone. Today, she leads school-wide food drives, raises awareness about global issues and encourages compassion and kindness in the halls. Volunteerism has widened her perspective and unlocked her voice.
Still, whenever Shreya is feeling low, she heads to her closest in search of that special bag. It serves as a talisman, reminding her of the confidence she’s found in her new community.
“It feels great knowing my child won’t be bullied again,” Naveenta explains with a mother’s tenderness. She feels relief that Shreya now believes in herself enough to know she can deal with whatever comes her way—but it’s more than that. “What makes me proudest is knowing that she won’t stand by while others are bullied either.”
At ME to WE’s Take Action Camp, friendship and social justice go hand-in-hand. That’s the story Shreya shared with her classmates when she took the stage in her school’s very own mini WE Day, know as WE Day X. On that day, she stood up as a speaker and completed an event roster that included music, dancing, inspiring videos and more speeches.
As Shreya stepped to the microphone, her hands were shaking and her stomach was in knots. She recalls, “I was so nervous, so stressed that maybe no one would pay attention or care.” But as she began to speak—sharing her story of being bullied and the community she found through WE—her voice steadied. Then, a funny thing happened (something that surprised Shreya); people cheered—for her.
The young woman—who years ago would never have been able to stand in front of a crowd, let alone open up about her personal passions on stage—was stopped in the halls for days by admiring classmates and fellow students. Each wanted to tell Shreya how much her story meant to them. After WE Day X, her social media went through a change, too. For years, these channels had been an avenue for hate and bullying; now, they were flooded with positivity.
Naveenta recognizes the transformation in her daughter. For her, the positive growth can be traced back to the confidence and friendships Shreya developed at camp. She concludes: “Camp helped her believe in her own power.”
To read more stories like Shreya visit: https://www.we.org/stories/