Question: What is WE Day? Is it a school trip, a concert, a movement, a fundraising event, a trend?
Answer: all of the above.
The WE movement was founded more than 20 years ago by social entrepreneurs, Craig and Marc Kielburger as a volunteer travel program. Later, it evolved into a sophisticated social enterprise: a collaboration between a fundraising arm (called ME to WE) and the original charity: the WE Charity.
In 2007, the first WE Day event was held at the Ricoh Colleseum in Toronto, where about 7,500 youth listened to inspirational peakers such as Justin Trudeau, Senator Romeo Dallaire, Irshad Manji, Jessi Cruikshank and Olympic swimmer Mark Tewksbury. There was entertainment too, with Canadian Idol winner Brian Melo and Hanson. The event was broadcast across Canada via a live webcast produced by MTV.
Since then, the WE movement has exploded into a global movement for social change. There are 19 events in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., attended annually by 200,000 students from over 10,000 schools. with thousands of people watching online and on TV.
It has been described at the world’s largest empowerment movement.
But you can’t buy a ticket to WE Day. You earn your way in by becoming involved with the WE Schools program.
It works like this: A volunteer teacher at school leads a group of students through the program, supported by WE. The group meets at lunchtime or after school, they decide on what global and local action it will take, and follows the project through, over the course of the school year. The teacher and students are supported through the process with resources and materials from WE.
Since 2007, youth involved in WE Schools have achieved the following results:
- Over $105 million raised for more than 15,600 local and global organizations
- Over 36.4 million hours volunteered for local and global causes
- 12.9 million pounds of food collected by youth
The highlight of the involvement for most students is to attend WE Day: an incredible event that combines speakers and performers, including amazing guests such as last year, Prince Harry and Gord Downie.
This year (2017) WE Day Atlantic Canada has a star-studded line-up including motivational speaker Spencer West, who not only survives but thrives and enjoys life to the fullest – despite having no legs.
Closer to home, WE Day delegates will hear from Grade 9 Bedford Academy student, Rachel Brouwer who won a place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for her science project about purifying water. There are many other speakers throughout the day. Check the full listing here.
2017-18 also marks the second year that communications giant TELUS will spread awareness of the TELUS Wise #RiseAbove program. The goal is to encourage youth and parents to identify cyberbullying and direct them to the tools they need to help young people navigate the complicated digital world.
If you have pre-teens or teens who are planning to attend the remarkable event that is WE Day, make sure you make some time to sit down with them afterwards and talk about what they have heard and seen. Most importantly, support them in their ideas for social change, and encourage them to stay involved.