02/11/2013 10:15 am ET Updated Apr 13, 2013

On 'Being' the Change

I first learnt about Nicholas Kristof when The New York Times retweeted one of Kristof's photographs. The photo was of two Somalian children, the older one holding a jug for the other one to drink water from. "Somalis helping Somalis," Kristof had stated in the tweet. The poignant photo transfixed me: After staring at the it for some time, I loaded Kristof's blog and read his op-eds for hours into the night.

Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times journalist, has been covering social justice and human rights issues for decades. For Kristof's "powerful columns that portrayed suffering among the developing world's often forgotten people," the Pulitzer committee has bequeathed two prizes to Kristof -- one for his coverage of the Tiananmen Square protests and the other for his coverage of the Darfur conflict.

I developed an obsession with Kristof's writing and used every spare minute to read his columns. He introduced me to authoritarian governments, to genocides, gang-rapes, poverty, famine and fanaticism. He showed me desperation, but also sparks of hope and dreams, in the lives of the people we tend to ignore, people whose stories often go unheard and lost beyond the headlines and soundbites of mass media.

What was my role in bringing these dreams into reality? I asked myself. I did not know yet. I kept on reading.

I bought Kristof's acclaimed book, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," at the Vancouver International Airport, and worked on it for the next 10 hours until I landed in Halifax; the book, however, took me farther than the East Coast, and introduced me to "our century's greatest injustice": the inequality of women. It took me to Thailand to show me sexual slavery, to India to show me cases of gang-rape, to Pakistan to show me the horrors of honour-killing. Kristof left me by quoting Gandhi in his closing chapter: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

The catchy slogans of non-profit organizations have never grabbed my attention. I had never seen myself or anyone else as capable of changing the world. The world is immutably corrupted, I always thought. Accept it, and move on.

To escape the harshness of this reality, I had taken refuge in literature, photography and music. I wanted to find and refine myself through art, but Kristof told me that self-improvement comes mainly from helping others. I wanted to be happy, far from the maddening world, but Kristof taught me that happiness comes from connection to something larger, a greater cause or humanitarian purpose. "Half the Sky" prompted me to break free from my bubble of introversion, and look at the world as a global citizen and not as a bystander. Through this book, I was able to unravel my inner self, and recover a repressed desire: a desire to put service above self. Since then, I've been following the news and foreign affairs. I've read more books on global issues; I've watched films and talked to people about them.

Once I'm in college, I'm hoping to do a joint honors degree in international development and political science with a minor in women's studies. Afterwards, I hope to study law with a focus on international human rights. Kristof chose to inform the West about the Third World; unlike him, I'd like to take action to resolve the social justice and human rights challenges facing the developing countries -- and (try to) make the world a better place.