Forming a personal connection is one way to change problems within our society.
That’s why Abhayjeet Singh Sachal, a Grade 11 student at Seaquam Secondary, co-founded the organization Break the Divide, a group that uses social media to help students worldwide “connect, communicate and create change” for issues impacting their communities.
“There’s so many things going on in the world, but no one cares about anything,” Sachal said. “I mean, we hear about floods in Florida or shootings in America, but they’re constantly going on, we become kind of numb to it, but the second you get a friend involved or a family members that’s when it changes.”
The idea for Break the Divide formed after Sachal went on a trip to the Arctic in summer 2016. There he was exposed to the impacts of climate change on people, including rising poverty and suicide rates.
“I kind of came up with the idea after I went to the Arctic,” said Sachal, “when I came back and realized the only reason I cared about these issues like suicide and climate change so much was because my friends were affected by it. So I realized if we can get people personally connected to other people that’s where the power of creating change lies.”
Last school year, Sachal and his brother Sukhmeet Singh Sachal formed the first two Break the Divide chapters at North Delta’s Seaquam Secondary and East Three Secondary in Inuvik, N.W.T.
A year later, Break the Divide has grown immensely with numerous chapters not only in the Lower Mainland and one in the Northwest Territories, but chapters popping up in India and South Africa. According to Sachal, they currently have over 500 active members.
Surrey’s Tamanawis Secondary School was one of Break the Divide’s first chapters. Talking to students in the chapter show the mentality of change through personal connection was strong.
“The most important things is having that personal connection, like we see it on the news and everything but that’s not enough like once you establish that personal connection…it makes a huge difference in their perspective,” said 16-year-old Hamza Khan, chapter director at Surrey’s Tamanawis Secondary School.
The organization also has an individuality that allows each chapter to focus on certain issues. For example, the chapter at Tamanawis has added initiatives such as playing board games with disabled students.
Although Sachal founded the organization after seeing the impacts of climate change, the initiative plans to “break the divide” on local issues not only environmentally but socially, such as reconciliation of Indigenous peoples and breaking stigma around mental illness. An event was held at Seaquam earlier this month to bring awareness to mental health issues.
“That’s something that a lot of us teens face, but it’s something with a bad stigma towards and we want to overcome that stigma,” said Khan, who is planning a similar event for Tamanawis.
With most of its members not even set to graduate and its founder only 16 years old, one may question the impact the students have on their community. But according to Khan, groups like this are the future.
“One big thing that we’re always told is that youth are the future leaders,” Khan said. “Being a part of Break the Divide, that is something we personally experience because it’s all basically us, the youth that are running this initiative.
“We have adults supporting us through the whole program, but we’re the ones coming up with the main idea and going through the thought process.”