Dr. Eric Hoskins, Dr. Samantha Nutt, Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida, War Child’s Gala in Toronto, 2022 © Kennedy Pollard
In a world plagued by conflict and war, few things are as powerful as the universal language of music and the unwavering commitment of compassionate individuals. Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida, accomplished musicians in their own right, have harnessed their artistic influence to champion the cause of War Child, an organization dedicated to supporting children affected by war. With hearts filled with empathy, they have embarked on transformative journeys, witnessed the devastating effects of war firsthand, and created inspiring initiatives to bring hope, education, and healing to those in need.
War damages every aspect of a child’s life. Between stripping their families of vital means of support to taking away their access to education and legal protection, war makes it impossible for a child to enjoy their childhood.
For these children, every day is a struggle. The things that many of us take for granted can be life-threatening for them, conflict throws everyday life into chaos, and the uncertainty of what’s to come is a constant stressor.
“People are good at reacting to emergency situations,” said War Child Founder and President Dr. Samantha Nutt. “But there’s a tendency to move onto the ‘next big crisis’ when issues are less immediate.”
Humanitarian organizations, Dr. Nutt explains, often focus on the short-term needs of communities in crisis. While these measures can be beneficial, they leave a gap in long-term support, dealing with the conditions that contribute to violence and instability. War Child exists to fill that gap and break the cycle of poverty, violence, and despair that so many face in war-torn communities. Even when the headlines disappear, War Child remains on the ground, knowing that the work is not over yet.
Since 1995, War Child has worked with children and their families at the frontline of the world’s major crises, from Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond, garnering support from celebrity changemakers, actors, and musicians, like Kreviazuk and Maida.
“For over 20 years, Chantal and Raine have generously donated their time, talents, and energy to countless fundraisers, benefit albums, and initiatives, helping raise millions of dollars for War Child Canada’s programs,” said Dr. Nutt. “They have been steadfast champions of our cause, and their generosity, humanitarianism, and unyielding support continue to be a source of inspiration to us all.”
Moved by War Child’s mission to protect children from the brutal impact of war by providing them with education, the resources they need to escape poverty, and access to legal protection, Kreviazuk and Maida have been using their artistry to spread awareness for children in war-affected communities all over the world.
Kreviazuk, a compassionate mother and celebrated artist, joined forces with War Child in 2000 when she performed at the historic War Child 2000 concert in Winnipeg. The event, which drew a staggering crowd of 80,000 people, served as a testament to the power of music and unity in addressing the pressing issue of children living in war-torn environments. Since then, Kreviazuk’s involvement with War Child has only deepened.
“As a mother, I know how important it is for children to grow up in a peaceful, secure environment,” the singer said. “But there are so many kids in the world who don’t. They live in conditions most of us can’t even imagine.”
In 2001, Kreviazuk, alongside her husband, Maida, embarked on a life-changing journey to Iraq, where they witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of war on children. Their experiences were captured in the award-winning documentary Musicians in the War Zone, a call to action for Canadian youth to become informed global citizens.
“Access to education and medicine should be a right for us all, and when those rights are compromised, the cycle of war is perpetuated,” said Maida, recalling what he learned on the trip. “With retroactive schooling and skills building, War Child shows that there is a life to be had outside of war, and the strength of these communities, their relentless resilience, is proof of that.”
Music for a Cause
Maida, an accomplished musician and the driving force behind the band Our Lady Peace, has also played a vital role in the partnership between War Child and the music world. In 2004, he travelled with War Child Canada to Darfur, Sudan, where he witnessed the tireless efforts of non-governmental organizations in war-torn regions. These experiences left an indelible mark on Maida’s creative process, inspiring songs like “Al Genina (Leave the Light On)” and “Wipe That Smile Off Your Face,” which carry powerful messages of empathy, political action, and a call for change.
In 2007, he founded War Child’s Busking For Change initiative to raise funds for a school in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The initiative quickly gained momentum and evolved into an annual fundraiser held in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, and Calgary. Maida also produced the War Child benefit album Help!: A Day in the Life, showcasing the power of collaboration between musicians to support the cause.
Kreviazuk and Maida recognize the pivotal role artists and musicians can play in promoting social justice and raising awareness about global issues. They understand the power of their platforms to connect with audiences, to inspire compassion, and to spark dialogue. For them, it is not just a responsibility but an opportunity to create positive change.
The Power of Hope
War Child supports more than 600,000 women, children, and families every year. They provide numeracy and literacy classes to vulnerable women and catch-up education to children who have missed out on years of schooling. They work with women and youth, offering skills training and small business loans so that they become less aid-dependent, lift their families out of poverty, and protect the rights of women and children through access to justice programs.
It’s a long-term holistic approach that seeks to end cycles of violence and poverty and sets up women and children to look forward to brighter futures. What makes it possible is that 99 per cent of War Child’s staff are locals to the communities the organization works with, allowing them to build systems of change and empowerment not just for these communities but within them.
In 2007, Kreviazuk’s travels extended to Ethiopia, where she visited War Child Canada’s humanitarian programs and raised awareness about the African AIDS crisis and the challenges faced by children who had lost both parents to HIV/AIDS. While there, she met with children, some as young as 12, who, upon their parent’s death, were left to provide for and raise their younger siblings.
“The eldest siblings are in charge of the entire family once the parents are gone,” she shared. “Just hearing about that, and that these kids are getting an opportunity to live with dignity and have hope and have possibilities, is enough to really move me. How can I not have courage when individuals in these circumstances display so much?”
Kreviazuk explained that witnessing the transformative power of War Child’s programs, which emphasize education, skill-building, and self-reliance, reinforced her belief in the potential for individuals to rise above their circumstances.
“One of the key pieces to War Child and to these incredible and deserving grassroots charities is that when they start something, they take the time to finish it instead of moving on when the next big thing comes up. It takes a lot of bravery to start a project and see it through,” she said.
The World That’s Possible
The challenges facing organizations like War Child are significant. Many people remain unaware of the devastating effects of war on children and their communities. Kreviazuk and Maida believe education and awareness are crucial to breaking this cycle.
“Ultimately, war affects all of us,” Maida explained. “That’s why it’s surprising to see how little exposure most people have to that harsh reality. I genuinely believe that if people had more insight into their personal impact on war, the world would change.”
In her critically acclaimed book, Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies, and Aid, Dr. Nutt shared a similar thought:
“War is never as far away as we believe it to be. It is in our pockets, generating annual returns for our pension funds, encircling our ring fingers, and filling up our cars, among other luxuries. This means that both individually and collectively, we have a far more direct influence over armed conflicts in the world than we might otherwise believe.”
It’s a message that is little-known but ever-present. By enlightening individuals about their impact on war and encouraging them to take action, Kreviazuk and Maida hope to empower communities to support grassroots organizations like War Child.
“I think that human beings have incredible potential for compassion. I see it every day,” Kreviazuk added. “The best way we can help War Child as individuals is by spreading the word in our communities and having the courage to act.”
Through their music, advocacy, and personal involvement, Kreviazuk and Maida have brought attention to the plight of war-affected children and inspired countless individuals to take action. As they continue their remarkable journey with War Child, the two remind us that we all have a role in creating a better future for these children. With the power of compassion and music, we can amplify their voices and build a world where every child can grow up in peace and security. War Child is a testament to the transformative power of empathy, unity, and the belief that a brighter tomorrow is possible for every child affected by war.
War Child has endless opportunities to get involved with their important work. The organization’s annual gala, The World That’s Possible, will take place this December at The Four Seasons in Toronto. Learn more at warchild.ca
(L-R) Sarah Rafferty, Troian Bellisario, Arwa Damon, Patrick J. Adams, and Samantha Nutt attend the Good For A Laugh comedy fundraiser featuring Sarah Silverman and
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN.com War damages every aspect of a child’s life. Between stripping their families of vital means of support to taking away their