As we reach the culmination of The Elders’ #WalkTogether campaign, Virgin Unite are celebrating Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, his legacy and the founding of The Elders. 

The #WalkTogether campaign has built a bright web made up of 'Sparks of Hope' – communities building a movement for the freedoms Mandela dedicated his life to: peace, health, justice and equality.

Virgin CEOs and staff members from all over the world have written about their own Sparks of Hope and for the next month we invite you to read their stories and join the global #WalkTogether movement.

Floyd Rocha is the Managing Director at Virgin Mobile Canada

I’ve always believed in the power of hope. Hope drives change. It motivates us to do more, be better and most importantly, make an impact.

All great ideas and pivotal movements in the fight for equality started with a spark of hope – hope that we can make a difference. As Managing Director of Virgin Mobile Canada I feel it’s important that as an organisation we all feel hopeful that we can make a difference in the lives of Canadian youth by using our business as a force for good – and that’s what Virgin Mobile Canada’s #SparkOfHope, Re*Generation is all about.

If we have resources to help break down barriers, stigma and inequality that at-risk youth face, why wouldn’t we do it? 

Virgin Mobile RE*Generation focuses on removing barriers to employment at-risk youth face due to poverty, lack of education or other issues, by investing in training to help them get the skills, hands-on experience and connections they need to launch a career. The charitable initiative started in 2009 with a focus on crisis outreach and shelter programs, after Richard Branson saw homeless youth sleeping on the snowy streets of Toronto.

When I joined Virgin Mobile in 2012 and was introduced to RE*Generation,I was struck by the prevalence of youth homelessness in Canada and the barriers some youth face when trying to find employment. In a survey we commissioned, we found that 53 per cent of youth felt they were at-risk of becoming homeless.

Homelessness and inequity are complex, so we needed to go beyond charitable donations and instead be a catalyst for change in the lives of youth facing barriers. That’s why in 2015 we shifted the focus of RE*Generation from crisis outreach and shelter programs to investing in job skills training for youth to help them find and keep jobs, and ultimately change their lives for good. I joined the board for one of our RE*Generation partners, NPower because it was important for me to understand the issues at-risk youth face in more depth so that as an organisation we could help serve this community better.

Since 2015, more than 600 youth have been trained and hired, with an expected 400 more this year. I’ve had the pleasure of working with NPower graduates at Virgin Mobile, some of whom are still here, and some who have used Virgin Mobile as a springboard to launch their career.  This June we facilitated a convening with youth, youth service providers, government and funders across Canada to share knowledge and develop action plans to help youth become and stay employed.

If we have resources to help break down barriers, stigma and inequality at-risk youth face, why wouldn’t we do it? I’m hopeful that through RE*Generation we can light a #SparkOfHope in all Canadians to do some good and push for equality.

Virgin Unite, #WalkTogether, The Elders

- Floyd Rocha is the Managing Director at Virgin Mobile Canada