Our hearts are filled and abundant, except if they aren’t. I have walked both journeys. Haven’t we all? Yet, mysteriously, we all join into the spirit of changemaking at this time of year. It nourishes our hearts. It is a Learn Forward, most important journey of a child.

Over the holidays, we are listening to the hearts of young changemakers, those making a difference in the world.  We are holding space to consider, as teachers and parents, how do we nurture changemaking?

This week, Rachel Pagdin is with us, sharing her experiences and thoughts on the ‘Making of a Changemaker.’

The Journey of a Changemaker


Rachel Pagdin

Filled with curiosity, growing up I was quite often “pushing the envelope” as my mom would say. When my parents would tell me “no”, I was always quick to reply “but why not?”. While this may have been a nuisance for my parents, I believe my nature to consistently question the norm has played a significant role in my success.

When I graduated high school, while many others were going off to university, I was dead set on something much different. With my bags packed full of naivety, I bid my family goodbye and took off for half a year to Ghana, West Africa where I learned my greatest lesson yet. Being an upper-middle-class, white, and from Canada means I am a part of a very small privileged minority in a very large world where billions of people live their lives facing a shockingly different reality.

My life’s narrative as a white Christian girl from a nice Canadian suburb was shaken and made insecure when I witnessed happiness, love, and fulfilment in such contrasting ways of life. I realized that while others lives and belief systems may be utterly different, it doesn’t make them anymore or any less. When I originally packed my bags in preparation for my adventure I was thinking about all the good work I was about to do and the change I was going to make, but on my way home after six months of volunteering in rural Ghana, I realized the only real change that took place was within me. This epiphany only fueled my nature to question and pick apart things I had typically taken for granted.

Taking a year off after high school was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did I learn a lot of life lessons, but when the time came for me to return to my studies and pursue my undergraduate degree, I did so passionately, with an intense craving to learn more.

While my original trajectory was towards a career in medicine, strongly encouraged by the nurse and doctor I call mom and dad, I was quickly rerouted when I began taste-testing all sorts of different classes at my very liberal “liberal arts” school. In my biochemistry classes, when I would ask “why”, the answer was too often “we don’t know, science hasn’t gotten that far yet”. In exploring a handful of different classes, I discovered my passion for politics and international relations. In these classes, we were focused on exploring some of the world’s toughest problems and learning about potential solutions. Here, my questions of “why” were met with a multitude of different answers and it was my job to make a case for which answer I believed to be superlative.

Embarking on this new path in my degree meant straying away from my original goals.  When I switched my major from Biochemistry to International Relations, I could almost feel the shockwave ripple through my family… “what on earth are you going to do with that degree?” everyone asked (and continues to ask) me. While I may still not have an answer for that question, I don’t think I need to.

I’ve found a path that encourages me to think critically about the way the world works. I’ve found a path that gives me the tools to try and navigate all the tough questions nobody has the correct answer to. Most importantly, I’ve found a path that excites me! While this path may not have a clear destination in sight, I know that as long as I continue to fuel my passion and work with determination, I will move forward. I’ll know my destination when I get there!

Where I was 5 years ago

In Ghana, learning about how diverse our world is and how blinding our western privilege can be. 

Where I am now

Employed at the Mount Allison International Centre!!! In this picture, I was representing Mount Allison University at the Canadian Bureau for International Education’s annual conference where we discussed the ethics of international travel and the importance of cross-cultural competency.

On a path,