Get Inspired: Araf's Story

Araf Khaled
17 years old, from Toronto

Photo of Araf

My Story

When I was seven, I was diagnosed with a cancer of connective tissue - sarcoma. It is not a well-known disease, but as a sarcoma survivor I've always had a great interest in learning more about it. During my Grade 10 summer, I attended a symposium on sarcoma at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and found out that there had been a significant lack of research into this type of cancer over the past few decades. I was shocked to learn that many patients still had to face gruesome treatment options and were not nearly as lucky as I was.

I felt very strongly about the issue and decided to launch a club at my high school, Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute, that would strive to increase awareness and funds to battle the cancer. That is how the Youth Sarcoma Initiative (YSI) was born. Since its founding in 2008, my friends and I have launched several projects including: a documentary called "Spotlight on Sarcoma", a 3K fundraiser walk, a Toronto design contest and an art auction fundraiser.

The fact that our school and community are now familiar with the word sarcoma makes me very happy. We have also collected over $3,000 for sarcoma research at SickKids. But my great reward and motivation is to see other students become leaders and effective advocates of sarcoma. My fellow peers say that this is a worthwhile project and that they feel they have been able to make a real difference."

Learning experience

School takes first priority and I try to ensure that the time set aside for school work is uninterrupted by anything else. This was very challenging at first, but I have learned to prioritize in order to get things done.

I also think delegating is an important skill I've learned through my charity work. There are plenty of excellent people who are willing to take on the responsibility and do a great job if they are given the chance.

Get inspired

As a student, I would say - challenge yourself, take courses you know you will be engaged in and develop the academic skills that are essential to higher level learning. As a youth health advocate, I would say - don't smoke, watch your drinks and get plenty of physical activity every day. And as a philanthropist, painter and traveller, I would say - live life everyday in the way you'd enjoy it most, in a way that you can learn and contribute to the world.

Araf Khaled has received several awards, including the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership 2011, Rotary Club of Toronto Youth Civic Leadership Award, first place in the iEARN Canada 2010 'most inspirational blog' contest and second place art award from Taking It Global 2010. In September 2011 Araf started his studies at the University of Toronto.

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