Why we should all celebrate We Day and a generation of youth now acting out

By Randall Mang
Parent, Citizen and Free The Children supporter
 

Today, more than 15,000 young people will stream into SaskTel Centre. One could easily assume they are there for a big concert, but in fact these students are part of a growing movement known as “Me to We” that represents a profound shift in attitudes and actions among young Canadians now embracing charitable giving and social activism.

International elite ranging from recent Nobel Peace Prize recipients Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi to Kofi Anan, Sir Richard Branson and the Dalai Lama are among the Canadian-born movement’s marquee supporters. Stars like Oprah Winfrey, Martin Sheen and countless others lend their celebrity to the cause. Major Canadian philanthropists are personally involved, as are corporate brands like TELUS, RBC, Microsoft, Ford and others.  

Why? These individuals and organizations see the impact and, perhaps more important, the potential. 

According to a recent independent study by Mission Measurement, LLC, Me to We has engaged more than 2.3 million young people from 8,000 schools globally and inspired them to be leaders in their communities. In turn, these kids have volunteered over 14.6 million hours of community service benefitting causes they care about. They have raised over $45 million in support of more than 1,000 local and global causes, including helping collect 5.6 million pounds of food for local banks.     

The forces behind Me to We – including its We Day events and integrated We Act program – are Ontario natives Craig and Marc Kielburger, co-founders of Free The Children, the world’s largest charity of children helping children. 

People who have never heard of the Kielburgers often assume they must have been born into money. They weren’t. Their parents are schoolteachers. Craig and Marc – brilliant and charitably motivated – have, over the past 20 years, been working in Canada and abroad to change the world for the better.  

This year, more than 200,000 young people and their teachers will attend 14 We Day events across North America and the UK. As in Saskatoon today, kids earn a ticket to We Day through community service. Seated among thousands of others like-minded individuals, these youths gather for a day of thought provoking presentations and entertainment by global superstars, thought-leaders and young change-makers. We Day stadiums roar with the sounds of tens of thousands of kids cheering for a world that supports women’s and girls’ empowerment, and where access to education, potable water, healthy food and other pillars of sustainable communities are rights, not privileges.   

Through We Act, kids go home equipped with a year-long service-learning program that helps them excel academically, at work and as global citizens.  

Me to We is delivering lasting impact. A recent study showed that 94 per cent of teachers reported that students involved in We Act have demonstrated increased leadership skills. Fully 80 per cent of We Act program alumni reported they continue to volunteer, on average 150 hours annually, while 83 per cent also donated to a charity. Equally notable, 79 per cent voted in the last federal election, more than double the national average. 

While many people are familiar with the Kielburgers, astonishingly I often meet Canadians who haven’t yet heard of Me to We and its transformative impact on our world. 

Admittedly, I only became enlightened a few years ago after my daughter Nayah – then in Grade 7 – was chosen to attend a We Day event. At the time, I didn’t even know she was involved in her school’s Global Citizens group. Now, at just 14 years of age, she and her friends – like hundreds of thousands of others – are now proving they can change our world for the better.  

With the Kielburgers and Me to We leading the way – I am confident that Nayah and her generation are just getting started.