“Youth is not wasted on the young. We Day is our generation. We Day is the movement of our time.”
On September 28th, we were honoured to be a part of We Day Toronto, kicking off the 2012 We Day Tour which will head to Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Waterloo, Montreal, Ottawa (National We Day), Halifax and Saskatchewan over the coming months. Recent news announced that We Day is making its’ American Debut on March 27, 2013 in Seattle with further expansion across US cities in the works.
We Day is Free The Children’s coveted annual event bringing together young people to celebrate and further fuel their passion for change. We Day includes appearances and performances by celebrities who share the same passion for making a difference – locally and globally. What makes WE Day so unique is that you cannot buy a ticket to We Day. You have to earn it.
The Air Canada Centre (Toronto) was filled to capacity with youth, educators and guests to experience a day not soon to be forgotten. To be invited to We Day, young people had to have demonstrated their commitment to a local or global cause. Many schools were represented with teachers bringing groups of their students to the day. The the mandate for the students to return to school and host a Mini We Day at school. Several corporate sponsors also invited young people to attend the event as their guests. The day began around 9:00 am, and wrapped up after 2:00pm.
The common message all day was that today’s young people have the ability to spread the word like no one has before them, through social media, their reach is limitless.
The day kicked off with a high energy welcome from Craig and Marc Kielberger, and set the tone for the day, centring on the power of We. “When we come together, like we do at We Day, we’re united,” Marc said. “We are strong, We are unbreakable, and We are unstoppable. That is the power of we.”
Next, Hedley took the stage and had everyone on their feet, followed by Martin Sheen, an activist for many social causes. “We’re not asked to do great things. We’re asked to do all things with great care.” (love that quote!)
Spencer West took the stage next, and is a We Day favourite. West lost his legs at the age of five, and has been a highly demanded motivational speaker for many years, and reminds audiences that anything is possible. Spencer encouraged youth to overcome their daily challenges, believe in themselves as active change-makers, and find personal strength to fight for the issues they are passionate about. His words have encouraged millions of young people to become more socially involved in their communities and the world. Spencer shares his incredible story with the world in his memoir, Standing Tall: My Journey. “We can redefine what is possible.” (no truer words ever spoken!)
Al Gore up next, and reminded the audience to wake up their will to act. “Never ever doubt for one minute that you can change the world in a positive way.”
After breaking for lunch, Nelly Furtado surprised the audience and teamed up with K’Naan to perform Is Anybody Out There. K’Naan returned to the stage later to perform Hurt Me Tomorrow, and once again had the crowd on their feet.
The Honourable Romeo Dallaire received a standing ovation when he took the stage. His message was clear about the power this generation has to create change through technology. “You are part of a new generation that I call the generation without borders. You’re going to feel and hear and taste and listen and cry and laugh and encourage and help and build humanity because every one of us is equal.”
Marc and Craig took the stage once again, for their sendoff message. Craig had been surprised that morning to learn that his Grade 7 teacher was in the audience. Grade 7 was the birth of Free The Children. The story goes that Craig read an article in the newspaper about Iqbal Masih, the Pakistani boy who was sold to child labour at the age of 5 years old. He had escaped from the factory where he worked knotting carpets and then traveled the world speaking against child labor. His photo was in the paper because he had been shot and killed, many said by the Pakistani carpet “mafia.” The newspaper reported that Iqbal was 12 years old when he was murdered, (the same age as Craig). Craig was so moved by the story that he approached his teacher asking for the opportunity to speak and recruit the help of his classmates to make a difference in this crisis and raise awareness about child labour. Within one year, donations were coming in, and Free The Children was born.
Jennifer Hudson up next, to close out the unforgettable day with a fabulous performance of Night of Your Life, followed by Hallelujah.
Ongoing initiatives were announced throughout the day, such as We Create Change, inviting us to give the Canadian penny the biggest sendoff ever. Coinciding with the penny going out of circulation, attendees were provided with a bag in which to collect pennies and bring them to their local RBC Branch, which will in turn provide clean water to people around the world. Free The Children has a goal of providing 100,000 people with clean water for life. 2500 pennies = clean water for one person.
We Scare Hunger invites young people to trick-or-treat for non-perishable food items instead of candy, or collecting canned goods at school and in their communities. This helps the local food bank and raises awareness about hunger and how seemingly small actions can make a difference.
We Are Silent is one of Free The Children’s most powerful campaigns. It encourages participants to stand up for those who do not have a voice and take a vow of silence. Young people will go silent for 24 hours on April 18th, 2013 to raise awareness and funds for children whose rights are not being upheld and are silenced by poverty and exploitation.
Like We Day’s Facebook page to help out even more. Every like earns $1 for Free The Children causes.
If you have a young person in your life, encourage them to learn more about Free The Children, and get involved. We Day and Free The Children have made it easier for young people who want to help but don’t know where to start. I learned one thing for sure – there are no limits when young people come together with their passion for change. The future will be an interesting place!