Lily and Ava Rashed know words have the power to hurt or heal.
They’ve chosen the latter by using the strength of their songs to fight cyberbullying while also carrying their family’s musical torch.
The 13-year-old Charlottetown twins have been chosen as spokesteens for StopCyberbullying, a program of the global cyber safety group WiredSafety, after writing their song “Worth It!” which will also serve as the theme for the group’s upcoming app.
The two, who have been volunteering with the organization since they were nine, including performing at the International Stop Cyberbullying Youth Summit held in Charlottetown in 2013, said they were inspired to write the song after witnessing the effects of bullying.
“We’ve read articles on it and our friends go through it every day,” said Lily. “We just want to help them and, maybe if they listen to our song, they can feel better.”
Inspired by pop and country, with the hopes of someday collaborating with their favourite artist Taylor Swift, the two also released a song last year called “OK With That.”
“I think this one is a step up though, in terms of better writing and music,” said Ava, adding the two are excited to join the group.
The duo’s talent is no surprise as the sisters grew up playing music, with their father David Rashed being a member of the P.E.I. group Haywire. Their great-grandfather on their mother Sue Rashed’s side, Charlie Chamberlain, was also an entertainer on Don Messer’s Jubilee and was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
Both sisters sing, play guitar and piano, while Lily also plays fiddle.
They write their music together, with their father and mother helping to work out the arrangements and produce the tracks.
“We both have ideas and we work together, sometimes I’ll have an idea for instrumentation and she’ll have an idea for the lyrics and vice versa,” said Ava.
Parry Aftab, a US cyber lawyer and founder of WiredSafety, said she was looking across the globe for spokesteens.
Although there were a number of YouTube stars in the running, Aftab said she knew the two P.E.I. teens were the perfect choice after hearing their song, which had its debut earlier this year to an audience of about 20,000 students in India.
“I had tears in my eyes (when I first heard the song),” said Aftab, who is originally from the U.S. but now partially resides in P.E.I. after marrying an Islander. “They have big hearts and are outrageously talented, they’ve thought about this issue a lot and they recognize the pain in cyberbullying doesn’t just affect those who have been cyberbullied. So often, the aggressors and cyberbullies are there because of pain they’ve experienced.”
The sisters’ lyrics address that in lines like “You hide behind a screen although I can tell, those words are how you feel about yourself.”
The two also performed the song during the group’s first Community Kindness Leadership Awards presented at Government House earlier this month and, along with their father, were presented with a Positive Family Award.
The duo is also joining the group at a particularly busy time.
Aftab said it is in the process of constructing the Joe Alhadeff Youth Digital Innovation Policy Centre in Point Prim, which will bring world experts and youth together to collaborate on digital risk management and cybersecurity policies.
“It’s the kids that have the answers, that’s why we’re doing the centre. Because if I can bring the head of cyber-security for IBM or the head of policy for Instagram out here to sit with the kids and talk about the issues, the kids have the right answers,” said Aftab.
The StopCyberbullying app, which will launch in January, will provide youth, parents, school administrators and law enforcement with links and resources on combatting bullying.
Everyone who downloads the free app will be greeted by the sisters’ song, which is in the process of being translated into multiple languages.
The duo will also be involved in the groups programs held throughout the world.
“We’re a worldwide charity and we do programs all over the world but we’re going to be doing a lot from here with the centre and the girls… the focus is on P.E.I.,” said Aftab.
Despite the two being busy — they’re also involved in “Anne and Gilbert”— they have no plans on stopping their music.
“We’re going to try and make an EP this winter and then hopefully release it in the spring,” said Ava.
Lyrics to Worth It!
By Ava and Lily Rashed
Dedicated to StopCyberbullying Global
Thinking back when, wish I knew then that I know how to brush the dirt off my knees from you and them pushing me down.
Cause baby my life is good, don't need to change a single thing to fit your rules. You better keep your eyes wide open cause baby you might miss out.
You should know, I'm doing well.
You hide behind a screen although I can tell those words are how you feel about yourself.
If I could go back in time, I'd run up to you. I would tell you everything that back then I never knew. Like how your sticks and stones never had the power to break my bones.
And don't bother me with your opinions blowing up my phone.
You should know, you don't act the same your personality's different. You've really changed. What happened to the friend I thought I knew?
I am worth it, you don't have anything on me. No one's perfect, I have a sense of clarity. And I’ll never change who I am for you. You'll never break me down. I caught the stones you threw.
I am worth it and I know you don't believe it but baby so are you.
I'll always remember the way you made me feel. I built up my army, then I left my sword on the battlefield.
I am worth it.
You don't have anything on me.
Perfectly imperfect, even though I can guarantee a few times before I have let you win.
But now I’m standing tall. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.
I am worth it and I know you don't believe it, but you really should believe it...cause I can truly see that baby so are you.