It really affects your self esteem if you let other people tell you you're no good."

That is the premise that pushed Mackenzie Oliver start the "I Love Me" Club when she was seven years old.

Now, this wisdom-packed 11 year old is focussing her energy on a better universe and heading to Kenya, to help finish building a school, learn the Swahili language, meet local villagers, learn about traditional maasai culture and poverty-related issues in Africa.

On first glance, one might feel this experience might be wasted on an 11 year old. What can an 11 year old do? At the core of this Kenya experience are the Keilburger brothers, Craig and Marc, and Free the Children Program. Their Me to We campaign focusses the energy of young people like Mackenzie Oliver and empowers them to make incredible difference in this world.

Both Craig and Marc Keilburger were launching national programs before they hit their teens and they have thousands of followers around the world who are empowered by their example.

So, Mackenzie, founder of the "I Love Me" Club wants to embrace additional challenges.

She'll be helping to collect daily water from the well in the village in which she'll live. She'll be working under the guidance of Spencer West, a key Me to We speaker and the inspiration for Mackenzie when she attended the Me to We event at the Air Canada Centre last September. Spencer lost his legs at the age of five and now speaks worldwide about overcoming obstacles, putting out a stop sign for bullying--topics that are magnets for young people. As she listened to Spencer speak, Mackenzie's local "I Love Me" program drew her to his leadership and she'll be going to Kenya under Spencer's guidance.

True to Keilburger form, when Mackenzie decided she wanted to attend Me to We, it wasn't money to buy a ticket that she needed. That's not how Me to We programs fill a centre like the ACC. She had to 'earn' her ticket by writing about what she's done to impact her community, what she wants to do moving forward. Once she earned her seat, she took her spot in the audience last September and listened to speaker Spencer West.

While there she filled out a ballot for Kenya, understanding that she'd have to raise the money to go. She ticked "yes" on the parent approval box and hoped that would be true.

And so Christmas for Mackenzie was all about raising money. She turned her wish list into cash and her family and friends responded. Her little brother, 8, gave her his Christmas money of $100, and so Mackenzie has $1100 towards the $6000 needed by April. She has to remain a straight A student during the whole experience.

Mackenzie and her mom, Ingrid, can be seen at Mark's Work Wearhouse selling "I Love Me" t shirts and blankets. They have plans for a bowling tournament, a Rama bus trip, and of course the smaller fundraisers like bake sales and 50/50 draws. "I have to think bigger than bake sales if I'm going to raise this money," says Mackenzie.

She hopes to appear on Rogers Day Time, and to increase the sales of her t shirts and blankets, using Marks as an outlet or her own email for private orders. This is an enormous financial goal for a young person. Can she do it? With the community's help, it's sure possible. (email: ilovemeclub@live.ca, Mackenzie Oliver, 77 Leslie AVE, Barrie, ON L4N 9P3)

Unleashing this girl's energy when she returns will be one of the great gifts we can make to the world.

Thanks, Mackenzie.

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