ST. STEPHEN – Two siblings from St. Stephen will be on the stage at this week’s WE Believe conference in Saint John.
Laura and Isaac Groom will speak on Thursday about their volunteer work with We’ve Got Your Back.
Isaac has recently completed his first year of university at University of New Brunswick, Saint John and Laura is completing Grade 11 at St. Stephen High School.
We’ve Got Your Back is a charity their parents helped create about a decade ago to help provide food for school-age children when they don’t have access to school food programs.
It’s “a charity that prevents food insecurity for school-age children from kindergarten all the way to Grade 12,” said Isaac. It delivers about 75 bags of food a week.
Conference organizers were looking for young people to speak about their volunteer work and the Grooms stepped forward.
Isaac doesn’t just work with We’ve Got Your Back, he has also been volunteering at a senior resource centre in uptown Saint John to work with and tutor high school students primarily from minority groups. Laura also teaches Sunday School at her church.
Isaac said their objective with the presentation is to “inspire youth to see their own need in their community and what they can do to fix it.” That could be volunteering with an existing charity or starting something of their own.
WE Believe founder Dan Foote said there will be about 350 students and family members from Charlotte County at the conference out of about 7,600 in total. Martin Luther King III, son of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., is scheduled to be at the event.
Foote started the organization in 2017 with a focus on mental health and the importance of volunteering. The organization believes that giving back to one’s community can help improve mental wellness.
“We know when students are involved, we know when anybody is involved, in giving back, their mental health just naturally improves,” said Foote. “They’re finding their purpose in life and that’s what we need for youth to do, that’s what we need our families to do.”
Some jurisdictions require students to complete volunteer or community service hours to graduate high school. Foote is unsure why New Brunswick doesn’t have that requirement.
“I don’t know if it doesn’t see the importance or doesn’t see how it’s connected to mental health. I don’t know. But what we need to do is that needs to change,” he said.
Presenters at the conference will talk about volunteerism, bullying, drug use and mental health.
Students wanting to find out what they can do can visit the WE Believe website for information about getting involved, as well as information for educators to incorporate into their classrooms.