In 1995, Craig Kielburger read an article in a Toronto newspaper about the death of Iqbal Masih, who from the age of four was forced to work at a carpet factory. At age ten, Iqbal escaped and became the face of a group that aimed to abolish such injustices. At age 12, Iqbal was shot and killed. Craig has turned that childhood experience into a force to be reckoned with.
Together with his brother Marc, the Kielburgers have established foundations that are the basis of change for those that are forced to live a life that no child should ever have to endure. Through Free The Children, as well as their Me To We initiative, they have energized youth in Canada and around the world to take action and be the agents of social change. To help spread the word, they created We Day in 2007. This year, the We Day tour includes stops in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Kitchener, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax and Saskatoon. On Friday, September 28, We Day kicked off in 2012 in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre with almost 20,000 in attendance, including many students from the Halton and Peel area schools.
The excitement began with host Jesse Giddings, who introduced an inspiring welcome from Craig and Marc, and kicked into high gear with Hedley performing two of their hit songs. Actor and activist Martin Sheen then talked about the importance of youth being involved and taking action, saying “we are all responsible for each other and the world.” Spencer West then took the stage to cheering from the crowd. The epitome of ‘I can’ philosophy, Spencer shared his recent adventure of scaling the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak, a task even more phenomenal since Spencer endured having his legs amputated when he was only five years old.
Former United States Vice-President and Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore encouraged everyone to make a difference. “Don’t ever think for one minute that you cannot succeed in making the world a better place.” Long-time Free The Children supporter Nelly Furtado performed her latest single ‘Big Hoops’, and was joined by surprise guest K’Naan, who joined Nelly to sing ‘Is Anybody Out There’. The Honourable Romeo Dallaire then spoke about the power that today’s youth has to create change through technology, or as he put it “you are part of a new generation that I call the generation without borders.”
Marc and Craig came back to the stage and Craig spoke about the power that teachers have to guide their students and encourage them to help change the lives of others. To all the educators out there, he said “thank you for believing in your students, and for working to arrange this We Day experience for them.” Marc then added “believe in yourself, believe in your cause and whatever issues or charities you care about and BE THE CHANGE!” Academy Award and Grammy Award Winner Jennifer Hudson ended the day with a spectacular performance of her song ‘Night of Your Life’ and brought the audience to their feet singing ‘Hallelujah’.
As the co-title sponsor of the event, TELUS believes that empowering youth will create positive change. TELUS has supported Free The Children and We Day since the first We Day event in 2007, and to date has contributed more than $3 million to the Free The Children initiative. TELUS has also launched a campaign allowing youth to upload a video to www.telusforweday.com describing how they would partner with a local charity to make a positive change in their community. The top idea will receive a $20,000 donation to their charity partner to put their idea into action. The Royal Bank of Canada has been involved for more than three years, and recently announced a multi-million dollar, long-term partnership that will help elevate the Free The Children youth-led movement to new heights. RBC will be supporting We Schools In Action, a dedicated program that engages thousands of educators and students through curriculum, campaigns, and We Day.
This year, We Day kicked of their new initiative, ‘We Create Change’. At the We Day Press Conference, Jacob Hoggard, lead singer from Hedley, and Nelly Furtado joined Craig Kielburger with what could be called Canada’s largest penny drive, and challenged everyone to donate their pennies to provide clean water for communities overseas. 2,500 pennies would equal clean water for one person for life. With the penny scheduled to go out of circulation, this is an easy way to help make a difference.
Their next event is October 18, 2012 at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Check out www.weday.com for more information on the events. To get involved and become part of the change, visit www.freethechildren.com as well as www.metowe.com for environmentally friendly products and life-changing experiences.