Students all across Vancouver gathered together at Rogers Arena on November 3 2016 to celebrate young people around the globe that love making a difference in their community, otherwise known as “WE Day.” Many famous guest speakers appeared at this event, including YouTuber and comedian, Lilly Singh, singer and actress, Paula Abdul, and a singing –songwriting duo, Nico & Vinz.
Starting off as just a local Toronto event in 2007, Craig Kielburger, a local children rights activist and author, founded WE Day. Originally he began by co-founding Free the Children, a youth empowerment organization, and the social enterprise Me to We. Kielburger travelled to India when he was 13 years old, and has since been passionate about helping children and performing sustainable, charitable acts. This inspired him to create WE Day, a youth empowerment event celebrating those who are trying to do the same.
We Day began its expansion in 2009, reaching Vancouver, and later on places such as Manitoba, Alberta, Halifax, Montreal, and Waterloo in 2012. The global expansion of this event started in 2013, going to cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, London, New York, and other popular places.
“Students were able to hear emotional and powerful messages from many Canadian athletes, politicians, other key members of society, and we also heard inspiring messages from other people around the world too, the international community,” said Riverside teacher, Carolyn Ross. “Some of the themes were around empowerment of women, social justice, social quality and economic equality around the world.” With a mix of dancing, cheering, and universal enjoyment, students leave feeling motivated and excited for the year of fundraising and activism to come.
Tickets for the event were not available to the general public. Instead they were distributed to students in schools and local communities as gifts in thanks for performing one local and one global act during the previous year.
“It was just a time to honor students’ contributions to making a difference and empowering them to make them feel that they can keep going and continue to make even broader change,” said Ross.