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On 26 December 2004, the most powerful earthquake to be felt on the planet in 40 years struck off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The quake triggered a series of huge tsunamis that crashed down upon the nations of Southeast Asia and parts of the African continent, leaving thousands dead and thousands more injured and homeless. The horrific events of that day left the world reeling in the aftermath of devastation.
But if 2004 ended with a sobering reminder of the destructive power of nature, 2005 began with an inspiring example of the creative and compassionate power that lies in the human spirit. This example was embodied by Aysha Wills, a 10 year old girl who dared to dream that music could make miracles.
Aysha was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1994, but moved to Hong Kong with her family soon after. When Aysha was 5, her family returned to Canada and Alberta, and settled in Edmonton. By the time of the tsunami disaster, Aysha was already a busy young girl, involved in music, swimming and martial arts. When her family couldn’t locate their friends from Thailand in the wake of the disaster, the grade-six student was spurred to channel her energy towards a global cause.
Courageous and remarkably articulate for her age, Aysha approached the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra with the idea of putting on a little recital that would raise funds to aid in the global relief effort. Aysha’s idea, fuelled by her tireless enthusiasm, quickly evolved into “Higher Ground”, a benefit concert for the children affected by the tsunamis. The musicians who played the concert agreed to do so for free, artists donated their artworks to raise additional funds through a silent auction, and all the proceeds of the concert would go towards UNICEF and other children’s charities.
Compassion is not governed by age, as Aysha Wills has proven. She was only 10 years old when she conceived the idea of a benefit concert to aid children left suffering in the wake of tsunamis that ravaged several countries in South East Asia.
The result of Aysha's dream was "Higher Ground", a concert that raised over $600,000 towards the relief effort. As a result of her achievements, Aysha was selected as a Global Woman of Vision for March, 2005.
It all came together on February 4, 2005 at the Francis Winspear Centre for Music in Edmonton. Featuring 56 members of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, an 88 voice choir, the Shumka Dancers, Senator Tommy Banks, and Bill Bourne, just to name a few, the “little recital” grew into a tidal wave of support, and raised over $600,000. A skilled musician in her own right, Aysha also played the flute at the concert, thrilling onlookers with her poise and virtuosity. Truly, she had demonstrated the power of one person to change the world.
In March 2005, Aysha was named as a Global Television’s Woman of Vision for her extraordinary volunteer efforts.