Thousands of young people come together to ignite change.
On Friday, September 28, the Air Canada Centre was filled with young people who had their hands up in the air, screaming and cheering in excitement. But this was not another pop concert that the venue usually hosts. It was Free the Children’s We Day—the international charity’s annual youth empowerment event that saw over 20,000 students in attendance.
“Young people are so often being dismissed as being powerless to change things and we thought that we’d produce a rallying cry to bring young people together the message that we will make massive change with the smallest things possible,” says Free the Children co-founder Craig Kielburger.
This year’s event was hosted by Jesse Giddings and saw a variety of high-profile guest speakers and performers including Al Gore, Martin Sheen, Nelly Furtado and Jennifer Hudson take the stage for a good cause.
“It’s really inspiring not only listening to the speakers, but seeing all of these kids come together,” says 17-year-old Abigail Jensen. The Toronto high school student experienced We Day for the first time and left motivated to carry on the movement through initiatives at her school.
“I plan to go back to school and organize some bake sales to raise money for zinc tablets which [as I learned] are the key to saving so many children’s lives,” says Jensen. Zinc deficiency was one of the many issues focused on during the event.
Free the Children also used this opportunity to present a new campaign called “We Create Change.” In partnership with RBC, this campaign’s mission is to provide 100,000 people with permanent sources of clean water through Canada’s largest penny drive. The Canadian penny, which has been around for over 150 years, will soon go out of circulation, so what better way to send it off than with a good cause?
“Water is one of those cornerstones in life that we do rely on and one of those things that most us take for granted,” says Hedley’s Jacob Hoggard, an ambassador for Free the Children.
A small sum of $25 in pennies provides a permanent source of clean water for one person in a developing country.
“We’ve got the ability to provide someone with essentially an essence of life in which they spend most of their time trying to achieve,” adds Hoggard.
Since it’s creation five years ago, We Day has shed light on some of the world’s greatest social and global issues, and it continues to educate, engage and empower the thousands of students and educators who attend.
Taking place in eight cities across Canada this year (the largest to date), We Day will reach millions of youth through its stadium-sized events and live broadcasts on television and online.
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Photos by Faze’s Christina Dun