Students celebrate social activism at Calgary conference
A number of Airdrie students came together Oct. 24 at the Saddledome in Calgary for a celebration of social awareness and active citizenship courtesy of We Day - a Canada-wide event created by Free the Children founder Craig Kielburger.
Youth from Nose Creek Elementary and George McDougall High School were just a few of the lucky students who spent the day listening to world-renowned speakers and performers including Hedley, Martin Sheen, Shawn Desman, Molly Burke, Spencer West, Larry King and Marianas Trench.
In the past five years, We Day has educated youth about issues around the globe and encouraged them to take action through individual, school-based and world-wide initiatives.
In the past school year, youth who participated in Free The Children’s year-long programming have raised $3.5 million for a number of international causes, $2.5 million for local organizations, logged 1.7 million volunteer hours, and collected 833,500 pounds of food for local food banks.
At 12 years of age Kielburger, a Canadian from Thornhill, Ontario, founded the organization and 17 years later, remains a global spokesperson and volunteer within the organization.
“It is always wonderful to see how passionate these kids are and to see first-hand the amazing things they are all capable of,” said Kielburger during a We Day press conference. “There are so many issues around the world that need addressing. Global hunger is on the rise and there is an urgent need to improve our efforts to fix this situation.”
Kielburger went on to add that youth yield more power than they are often aware of. Through unified efforts and even small gestures, large things are often accomplished.
“Children are the ones that truly see that every person deserves to have their basic human needs met,” he noted. “This event is a message to our government and world leaders to show them what children around the world are doing.”
For Hedley lead singer Jacob Hoggard, the opportunity to be a part of the event was something he and his band were not going to pass on.
Actively involved in their own charitable work, the band played two songs for the event and lent their voice to encourage Alberta’s youth to keep up the good work.
“These kids are very inspiring,” said Hoggard.
“The kids that are out there today are more socially aware about the world around them then most adults I know. It’s really pretty remarkable.”
Also attending the event was Spencer West who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro this past summer using only his hands and his wheelchair.
After losing his legs at the age of five due to a genetic disorder, West has been working toward empowering youth and showing them that anything is possible.
During the event he took the time to announce a new challenge he will be undertaking in May 2013. West, alongside his two best friends, will embark on a walk from Edmonton to Calgary with the hopes of raising $150,00 for Free The Children’s Water Initiative.
“Last summer, we trekked up Mt. Kilimanjaro, sending a message of hope and encouragement to continuously challenge what’s possible,” said West.
“The response was overwhelming and we knew we couldn’t stop there. We are bringing our next challenge to Canada, and we’re calling on everyone to join us on the road.”
For more information, visit freethechildren.com/water and to learn more about West’s Mt. Kilimanjaro climb, visit freethechildren.com/redefinepossible