We Day Toronto 2012: The Energy is Contagious!

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

                                                      – Mahatma Gandhi

Video produced by SiG Intern, Komal Minhas

I attended We Day for the first time at the age of 22. I can only imagine how much more motivated and engaged I might have been within the realm of social change with access to such a community and movement when I was in middle school or high school.

In a high school of 800 students, there were a handful of us who were engaged, and who mobilized for various causes and fundraisers across the Grande Prairie community. Starting these campaigns and activities from the ground up really sparked an entrepreneurial spirit in me, and a breaking-boundaries kind of attitude. But perhaps with the support of like-minded youth, and a movement like We Day, we could have scaled our impact and taken our work to the next level of community engagement and change. Perhaps with this kind of network and support, more students might have felt empowered to help one another and others around the world.

With Free the Children and Me to We co-founder Craig Kielburger

We Day has evolved to include various day-long events and campaigns across Canada focused on mobilizing youth (around the ages 9-18) for social change. As Craig and Marc Kielburger, the co-founders of Free the Children, Me to We, and We Day, say, “it is the movement of our time”. Tickets are free, and are distributed based on individual student impact, and commitments to act on one local issue and one global issue. Since 2007, over 160 000 students have taken part in We Day across Canada.

This year student commitments have included a Halloween food drive, a clean drinking water campaign for Kenya, and the largest penny drive in Canada. All proceeds go towards programming through Me to We, the social enterprise set up alongside the Free the Children charity.

The Free the Children and Me to We model is a go-to example for a dual social venture (business) and charity model with consistent and growing funds. An early SiG@MaRS client, Me to We donates half its annual revenue to Free the Children, while reinvesting the remainder in its own programming and administration fees.

Students showing their spirit and throwing up their We Day 'Ws'!

We Day has a truly incredible effect on the students that take part. You can see it manifest in real-time throughout the day (highlighted in the video we produced of this year’s event). With speakers including L. Gen Romeo Dallaire, Martin Sheen, and the Kielburger brothers, students can’t help but feel motivated to act.

Over the past few years, stories have emerged regarding bullying and hate-crimes among today’s youth. After reading some of these stories, I began questioning the capacity for compassion and empathy in this generation. Yet, I can’t get over the feeling I had standing in the Air Canada Centre with 18 000 engaged and motivated young change makers. There is something infectious about their energy, tears, cheers, laughter and drive… and I see it spreading like wildfire through this movement and others.

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About Komal Minhas

Intern, Social Innovation Generation (National)

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