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Humanitarians of Canada: 16-year-old gives a gift from the heart

A portrait of a young woman with thick framed glasses, brown long hair, and braces.

Daphnée Gagnon-Beaule is seen at home in Lévis, Quebec. The 16-year-old raised $2,400 for UNHCR to purchase water distribution systems for refugees. ©UNHCR/Francis Vachon

Meet the 16-year-old humanitarian raising funds for refugees—and hoping to change the world

Daphnée Gagnon-Beaule had a very clear vision and goal when it came to delivering her biggest Christmas gift.

The 16-year-old was familiar with UNHCR’s work helping refugees, and she wanted to find a way during the festive season to support the organization and those in need.

“I was searching about it on the website for sending a little gift, maybe some food or something like that,” recalled Daphnée.

Among the critical life-saving gifts on offer in the UNHCR online shop was a water distribution system which provides refugee families access to clean, safe water needed for cooking, cleaning and drinking. The idea captured her interest. Then, the work began.

“I’m still young, but I have a big dream: to change the world.

“I had a lot of contacts in my school, my friend circle, and my family, so I just had to ask them for donations,” said the secondary school student based in Lévis, Quebec. She also organized a school dinner with the proceeds to benefit UNHCR.

“I had help from my closest friends and I also had a grocery store that donated the hot dogs and it was really fun.”

Daphnée had hoped to raise enough money to purchase one water distribution system. After two months, she had collected $2,400 in donations—the equivalent of six gifts.

“You don’t have to be rich or be a hero or be even an adult or be known to help”

She received a certificate of recognition from UNHCR for her efforts. She aspires to a future career in humanitarian aid. In the meantime, she pledged to continue her support, both with her time and in donations.

“I’m still young, but I have a big dream: to change the world. Not for the fame, but to help people with all my heart. This is my greatest wish and I am determined to do everything I can to help others.”

Now working part-time, she allocates 10 per cent of her earnings to charity. She is already thinking of purchasing another gift through UNHCR next Christmas, with $150 already saved as she seeks to provide survival kits for families.

“There’s millions of refugees out there waiting for help,” said Daphnée. “You don’t have to be rich or be a hero or be even an adult or be known to help. It can be everybody with a big heart.

“We’re humans and they are humans, too, and they’re like us; and I think we really need to help them if we have the chance to help them.”

Written by Lauren La Rose for UNHCR Canada

Learn more about how to become a fundraiser here.