" I want to do something."
And with those simple words, one more child became committed to a worldwide movement for change.
It was my daughter Miranda's visceral reaction to the incredible event that was We Day 2013. Gathered in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, some 20,000 hopeful youngsters bent on changing the world coalesced and, in the process, inspired many more.
Perhaps it was the sheer amazement of being in the presence of so many leaders of change such as Craig and Mark Kielburger, Martin Luther King III or Spencer West. Perhaps it was the idea that with one small act, incredible transformation in the world could be achieved. Perhaps it was the very real reminder from Commander Chris Hadfield to the adoring crowd: "Every single day is preparation for the days that lie ahead so use the hours wisely." Spurred on by this message, We Day 2013 was the starting point for so many youth, who, like my daughter, were ready to embark on experiences that would not only help others, but change their own lives in the process.
"I have to do something."
Perhaps these were the words that a 12-year-old Craig Kielburger uttered upon reading an article about child labour, exploitation and the subsequent murder of another 12-year-old boy -- one who lived in Pakistan -- so many years ago. Sold into child labour at age 4, Iqbal Masih had spent six years of his short life chained to a carpet-weaving loom. In spite of this, Iqbal went on to become an international figurehead, speaking out against child labour and exploitation. He was killed in 1995, widely believed to be a result of his activism.
Struck by the story of Iqbal's short but compelling life story, Craig Kielburger began researching worldwide child labour and, with a group of his friends, formed a group called "Twelve-Twelve-Year-Olds" which eventually evolved into Free the Children. Since 2007, the youth connected with this charity have raised $37-million to support 1,000 local and global causes as well as volunteering more than 9.6 million hours of their time.
"We have to do something"
Such was the collective consensus of the crowd at We Day 2013. Inspired and compelled by celebrity luminaries including The Barenaked Ladies and Serena Ryder, as well as some particular youth favourites such as Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers, the feeling in the Air Canada Centre was electric.
This year's We Day event hosted 50 Toronto-based schools, which represent just a portion of more than 1,500 schools from across Ontario that are currently active in We Act, a full-year, comprehensive program in which youths, schools, individuals and families can engage in making positive global change. The unique and compelling We Day model is that unlike other events, students can't simply buy a ticket to attend. It is only through their commitment to take action on one local and one global initiative of their choice for a one-year period via We Act that they are able to participate in the yearly event.
Of course, we're living in a digital age and accordingly, kids today expect that technology will support them in their charitable activities. To this end, youth can easily get involved and log their hours of service through the We365 app. Formed through partnership with Free the Children and National Co-Title Sponsor Telus in support of the latter's "Give where we live" philosophy, the app will be available for download on October 18th.
As parents, we often wonder about the things that will impact our children in a positive way. We worry about them as the continue on through various paths in life and hope that they make the right decisions, ones that will not only help themselves, but others as well. Seeing the looks of hope and change on the faces of our next generation at We Day this year was, to say the least, inspiring.
We must all do our part to make a difference in this world for not only our generation, but for the generations that are to come in years ahead. As proven by We Day's participants and success, one small act can make a world of difference.
Learn about how you can get involved with We Day at www.weday.com and stay connected online at: Facebook: www.facebook.com/weday, Twitter: @craigkielburger @freethechildren #WeDay #Toronto