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Star Power: How Hedley Became Honourary Maasai Warriors

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HEDLEY WARRIORS
Me To We

Star Power: A six-pack of questions for celebs making a difference. Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of Free The Children and Me to We, check in with some of their favourite actors, singers and activists to find out how they are changing the world.

When we first met the guys from Hedley, the band wanted to embark on a Me to We Trip to Kenya. Our perceptions about reckless rock stars were still intact, and we discussed extra travel insurance -- only half jokingly -- since they didn't exactly shatter the stereotype. Jacob Hoggard, Tommy Mac, Dave Rosin and Chris Crippin have an affinity for racy lyrics and backstage pranks.

When their tattooed limbs touched down in the rural Maasai Mara, we wondered how the community would react to the Canadian rockers. Turns out the local chiefs were fascinated by the band's markings, which resembled the traditional burn designs that proved strength in Maasai culture. Guitarist Rosin's stretched ear lobes matched those of the locals; they even had similar jewellery.

The guys have been honorary Maasai warriors ever since. And, as ambassadors for Free The Children, Hedley has played at We Day events across the country since 2009. Lead singer Hoggard fronts the group with eccentric stage antics, like his penchant for jumping around like an amateur acrobat. Offstage, Hoggard is thoughtful, passionate and informed.

We called up Hoggard recently while he was in Los Angeles, right before he went offline to hunker down for a music writing session (the band is currently working on their fifth studio album). He told us that his superpower would involved chocolate and why he believes that honeybees might be the bellwether for our environmental collapse.

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What do you think is the biggest issue facing our world today?

It's called colony collapse disorder. These entire [worker bee] colonies are just completely disappearing [in parts of Europe and North America]--they're not even finding them dead, they're like completely gone.

There's certain tests that they do involving the effects of pesticides, but it hasn't been [definitively] proven scientifically that pesticides are the cause. But pesticides in the seeds become the pesticides that these bees take away. They are exposed on a regular basis and over time these colonies are disappearing. So it's clear it has to do with a non-organic, I guess you could say human intervention, but it's sort of this technicality that they're not able to prove that pesticides are a direct result.

It has potential to affect us on a pretty large scale in that honeybees pollinate like a third of the world's vegetation. I'm afraid that one day we're going to get to a point when people will say: "And then we killed all the honeybees," and it will be this massive change to the way we live and the way we eat.

If you could have a socially conscious superpower and change one thing about the world, what would it be?

I would transform people's frames of mind out of these internalized cults of self into these externalized, social aware, accountable sensibilities. You could create communities out of collectives of people that used to care only about themselves -- take New York, for example. New York is a really dense, enormous city, and you think "wow, what a crazy community."

Yes, within the city, there are microcosms and communities that thrive. But in a lot of ways it's a city that's not reaching its full potential. If every single person in New York was aware of everybody else, as well as the potential they would have as a group, the city's potential would be so much more. So I'd flip that switch for most people.

You mean like mind control? How does this superpower work?

[Laughs] no, not mind control. It would have to be like a...a chocolate bar. Or a super soaker full of socially aware chocolate.

You've got fans that look to you as a role model; who is your hero?

There's a guy named Chris Hedges and he has a website called Truthdig and he's written a few books. One of them is called Empire of Illusion. Basically, he talks about this concept that's been around since the Roman Empire, the idea of breads and circuses; the idea that empires are controlled by this element of distraction. In the Roman Empire it was gladiators and free bread. And today it's the same way, it's UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] and cheap dining.

He can come across as a negative kind of guy, but what he's saying has a lot of truth, in that our societies do seem to tread along a similar path of destruction, and, socially, the degradation is visible in the way that we consume ourselves with consumption.

We work with so many young people. Looking back, what advice would you give your high-school self?

My poor high-school self -- poor guy. For me, high-school really didn't fit. I didn't belong. I didn't learn at the same pace as others and I didn't get along with many people. It wasn't my style. I would have reminded myself that life is long and the world is enormous and there is life beyond the walls of your high school.

For most students, your school is your universe. You wake up thinking about it and go to bed thinking about it, whether it's socially or the classes you're taking. It's consuming and it's all you know. But as you grow up, you realize how dynamic and diverse the world is and you discover yourself as you discover where you align and fit in. As you realize there's more out there your potential becomes so much greater.

We believe in living me to we: making choices that positively impact the world, instead of just ourselves. Describe the moment you decided you wanted to give back.

For me it took place over a span of time. As an individual, and in lot of ways we all think this: you're under the misconception that as an individual you're not capable of that much action -- "I'm only one person, how much can I do?" I began to realize that even though I'm only one guy, people were watching me and listening to what I was saying. Whether I liked it or not, this was becoming much more prevalent in my life and I had the opportunity to impact the way other people think, whether it was through a song or a sentiment or an idea or through a speech or a trip to Kenya. I realized I can affect positive change.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are founders of international charity and educational partner, Free The Children. Its youth empowerment event, We Day, is in 11 cities across North America this year, inspiring more than 160,000 attendees from over 4,000 schools. For more information, visit www.weday.com

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