WE Day brings 16,000 changemakers
2016 Alberta WE Day event inspires youth in Western Canada
By Amber McLinden, Staff Writer
What does it mean to be a changemaker? On Oct. 26, 16,000 students and teachers attended WE Day Alberta to hear key speakers talk about perseverance in the face of adversity and how they can make an impact in their communities.
WE Day is a part of WE, formerly known as Free the Children, a youth empowerment movement that brings people together and gives them the tools to change the world. Changemaking, also known as social entrepreneurship, is a growing concept with the youth of today, who according to WE, are a generation ready to change the world.
Craig Keilburger, the organization’s co-founder, realized the potential youth had to make a difference. “When I was 12 years old, I was unsure if we could make a difference. When you walk into that stadium today, there are 10 year olds and 15 year olds and 12 year olds who are 100 per cent sure that they can make a difference. They are proud of it, they are loud about it, there’s not a doubt in their mind that they’re going to change the world; they are changemakers.”
Craig Keilburger and his brother, Marc Keilburger, began their changemaking journey when they were only 12 years old. They got together with a group of 12 other kids and formed a group of youth looking to make a difference. Now, in 2016, WE has grown to a global movement that is made up of 2.4 million young people. In Alberta alone, 810 schools and groups participated in WE and volunteered 600,000 hours.
Country singer and Alberta native Brett Kissel is one of those people, performing on the We Day stage and spoke with Craig Keilburger about why he thinks WE Day is so important. “I’m proud to see that there’s 16,000 people who are now inspired if they weren’t before to say ‘I can be a changemaker, and I can do a lot of good for my community here and the global community,’ which is exactly what WE Day is all about.”
WE Day is all about celebrating that success and recognizing the importance of this generation’s impact on the world. You don’t purchase a ticket, instead it’s earned through your school’s involvement in WE projects and changemaking. Calgary hosted Alberta’s WE Day this year bringing guests like Paula Abdul, Margaret Trudeau and Rick Hansen. Some celebrities act as WE ambassadors, talking on stage about their own personal experiences through challenges in their lives.
Tenacity was a huge theme among the WE ambassadors that spoke at the Saddledome. Paula Abdul talked about her lifelong journey becoming a choreographer. Margaret Trudeau, mother of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, spoke about her battle with bipolar disorder. Rick Hansen took to the stage to talk about his experience losing his legs and becoming an olympic athlete. The message across the board was the same – you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
That’s exactly what today’s kids are doing. Youth globally raised nearly $2.5 million with WE to support causes such as Fort McMurray wildfire relief and welcoming Syrian refugees. Craig Keilburger explained that children aren’t people to be looked down on, but rather they have the capability to do amazing things when they put their minds to it. Lindsay Ell, country singer and WE Day Performer, agrees.
“People can say that kids today are indifferent to what’s going on around them, but the fact that students are filling stadiums around the world for WE Day is proof that our youth are wanting to take action in their communities,” she said.
That’s just what the children are doing. Madeline Clark, a 19 year old who spoke at WE Day, founded the Confidence Initiative Association at her school. Clark has struggled with mental health issues and abuse, and realized that she was passionate about preventing bullying and abuse in Alberta. The organization aims to raise awareness and initiate acts of kindness, encourage confidence, and self-empowerment in schools. Clark is just one example of the youth that have been inspired by WE.
As inspirational as WE Day was, Craig Keilburger believes it’s more than that. “Twenty years ago, youth were the least likely to volunteer in this country, and today they are the most likely to volunteer of any age in this country. So, young people are changemakers, that is a fact. That is who they are, that is the change that they bring.”