“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Chances are you’ve almost certainly heard this quote somewhere. Whether it was on Instagram set to a generic sunset background, or pasted up on the wall of your third grade teacher’s room, these words probably sound pretty familiar.
This quote is the emblem that anyone can change the world if they truly want to, a message that’s been slowly engraved into our brains, with flashy sunsets, comic sans font, and cheesy captions. We all know these words.
But how many of us have acted upon them?
Craig Kielburger did.
At the age of just 12, Craig read a tragic article about young Pakastani boy, also aged 12, who was killed after trying to take a stand. And unlike most 12 year olds, Craig wanted to do something about it. He saw a potential for a better world. He envisioned the change. Then he became the change.
Craig banded together a group of seventh graders who thought that child labour was wrong and they created Free the Children. And it grew. Soon Free the Children grew to become Me to We, which sparked the WE movement, and on October 26, 2016, Craig stood on the stage of the Scotiabank Saddledome, with his brother Marc, speaking to over 15 000 inspired youth, as a part of a little known event we have come to call WE Day.
Amongst those 15 000 youth, I sat listening intently, trying to take in every word, revelling in the positive energy that radiated off of everyone in that stadium, thinking So this is the big deal about WE day.
You see, WE day has always been a bit of a mythological event. I had heard amazing things; that it would change your view of the world, that you would never think the same way again, that it was one of the most profoundly life changing events you could attend. I wanted desperately to experience WE day for myself, but I was never able to attend. But this year I got my chance. And sitting in that hushed stadium, listening to Marc and Craig speak about this incredible movement, this incredible change that they achieved, I started to really understand why everyone said it was so amazing.
First off, what is WE day?
WE Day is a powerful, life-changing event that combines the energy of a live concert with the inspiration of extraordinary stories of leadership and change.
WE Day brings together world-renowned speakers and award-winning performers with tens of thousands of young people to celebrate their contributions and kick-start another year of change. (Source)
It started 9 years ago in Toronto, and since then, has become an annual event, taking place in cities throughout Canada, the US, and the UK. Tickets cannot be bought, but rather earned, by making a commitment of one local, and one global initiative throughout the year to make the world better.
WE day has been inspiring generations of youth every year and this year was no different. Alberta’s WE day featured speakers like Paula Abdul, Madeline Clark, Spencer West, Chris Hadfield, Rick Hansen, Margaret Trudeau, and musicians Brent Kissel, Classified, and Tyler Shaw.
It was truly amazing. It’s hard to properly articulate how amazingly impactful WE day is. It taught me that anyone, no matter how young, or how seemingly small, can make a huge difference if they put their mind to it. It inspired me not only to want to make a difference today, but to continue striving to make an impact every day. At WE day, I learned what it really means to live WE, to be apart of this fantastic movement that is changing the world.
So maybe at this point, you’re saying : This sounds amazing! How can I take part in this movement?
There are so many ways to get involved. It all begins with the WE.org pledge (here)
Living WE is a journey towards leading a positive daily legacy. It is striving to create positive change in your community. So that could be starting a WE club at your school or it could be proposing a composting program in your workplace. It could even be supporting WE charities by purchasing your holiday gifts through the ME to WE store!
But if you’re thinking Yeah, all that’s great, but I want to do more, you’re in luck. ME to WE also offers several different trips, including those to the Amazon, India, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Kenya and Tanzania. These are phenomenal opportunities to roll up your sleeves and be directly involved with some of the projects going on in those areas. You get to experience the rich culture first hand, work with the locals, and interact with them to create lasting change. During your trip, you could be learning how chocolate is made, helping the women on their water walk, building a school, or even hiking up to the Mount Kilimanjaro base camp!
And I must admit, as someone who has had their qualms about voluntourism in general, I was fairly impressed by ME to WE’s model. For example, I was doubtful that you could create a lasting change by building a school without being qualified to build a sustainable school. However, ME to WE provides training for the activities you do and you’re working with local experts who know what they’re doing. If that isn’t enough, the villages are provided with the knowledge, funds, and resources to repair any potential damages after your trip ends. Also, rather than randomly building a school in an area where it isn’t needed, ME to WE works with village locals who know what the village needs. All in all, although there are slight issues that are difficult to solve, I think that ME to WE trips are very well designed, and I would definitely recommend that you look into them if you’re at all interested!
But if you’re a little hesitant about travelling so far, or you prefer to take part in summer camps instead, check out one of ME to WE’s Take Action Camps. Not your average summer camp, these camps work to help youth discover their passions, build confidence, develop leadership skills, all while making true friends. If you want to stay closer to home, Take Action Camp Ontario is the one for you. Or, if you wanna spend a week in the Sonoran Desert, check out Take Action Camp Arizona, where you can explore local issues such as poverty, sustainability, and cross-border migration.
So if you’re even interested in any of these trips or camps go ahead and take a look at the ME to WE website for more info, and make sure to sign up very soon, as summer 2017 camps and trips are filling up very fast!
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” After hearing it so many times, it always sounded like a background buzz, just another cliché saying meant to encourage kids to try to change the world. But after WEday, I started to take those words to heart. And whether or not you take part in a trip or camp, I hope that you do as well. Because if you can envision a change, you can be that change. So go out and change the world.