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Avril, Kofi, and Romeo: We Day Vancouver rocks Rogers Arena's roof
It's hard to define We Day's mantra in one sliced, concise summary – after all, Free the Children admits its concerts and programs will always strive to tackle any challenge or cause it can, global and local – but here's a shot:
On Friday, 18,000 screaming adolescents, children, and teenagers – who have all been invited by Me to We and Free the Children for service or extraordinary work in their communities and abroad – packed into Vancouver's Rogers Arena, and were treated to a smattering of famous speakers and performers.
Some are celebrities like Avril Lavigne or Hedley, and Canadian actor Adam Beach.
"Us, here in our Western world, we can kind of find ourselves living in a bit of a bubble," said Hedley lead singer Jacob Hoggard, who has accompanied Free the Children on international service trips. "There's just not a lot of awareness and not a lot of exposure... actually taking a trip across the ocean, the other side of the world, and experiencing first-hand the poverty and the situation and how dire it, in fact, really is, you can't help but come back with a sense of awareness that you wouldn't have otherwise already had.
"It encourages you to be a little more sensible than you might have been otherwise, as well."
The rest are international icons. Take former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, revered Canadian Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, or Martin Luther King III, all of whom are speaking right now at Rogers Arena. And there are a slew of Free the Children's favourite activists and inspirational folk schedule to speak, as well, like double amputee'd Mt. Kilimanjaro climber Spencer West or the Kielburgers' Ghana/Kenya program director Robin Wiszowaty.
Craig and Marc Kielburger were in Vancouver to lead the stadium-strong chants, too, doing their diligence psyching up a crowd of young activists for social change.
"Everything that we built, is what we wished we had when we were 12," said Craig Kielburger, backstage at Rogers Arena. "When we were 12 and we started Free the Children, we couldn't find a charity that would engage us as young people who wanted more than just money.
"We couldn't find a group of peers where it was cool to care. We were practically shoved into lockers, it was so uncool... where was the celebration for good, for volunteerism for people who cared about causes?"
Also performing on Friday morning was Canadian rock band Hedley, and Hoggard followed his group's performance with a speech and an introduction to West, a Free the Children global ambassador who was recently in North Vancouver at Grouse Mountain. Both Hoggard and West joined Craig Kielburger for Friday's We Day press conference.
"For me, in particular, my parents were big into volunteerism from the time that I was born," said West. "They led by example. Every year, we'd clean out our closets and donate our clothes... we made sure that we adopted a family during Christmas time and all sorts of things. It was just something that was ingrained in us from the time that we were born.
"I think, leading by example and having that freedom to choose for ourselves what we're passionate about was the key for me, in particular."
Free the Children announces new mobile app, We365
Free the Children and Me to We also announced the arrival of a new We Day mobile phone app – We365 – a "one-stop shop for youth to take action, providing a central hub to collect and track volunteer hours, applaud and reward young world-changers, encourage social activism and help them connect with other like-minded, young individuals" (according to We Day 2013's handed-out media release).
"We365 allows to provide that same inspiration (as We Day does), that same education, and those challenges 365 days a year," said Craig Kielburger. "We are incredibly excited to be kicking this off."
(*A video of We365 is at the top of this article.)
This year, Free the Children and We Day are focusing on education and, specifically, girls' education around the world. Education is their theme for the coming year, but Craig Kielburger told a media gathering on Friday that his organizations keep their eyes open to facing any topic they – or their volunteers and programs – would consider a challenge.
When Kofi Annan took the Vancouver stage, Kielburger interviewed him and asked the UN Secretary-General what he thought the biggest challenge facing the world was.
"I think the biggest challenge facing us and the future generations is the climate change," said Annan. "It's our environment... climate change is an all-encompassing threat. It's a threat to our way of life, our security.
"We cannot continue to plunder the resources of the world as if there's no tomorrow."
Past Vancouver We Days have featured NBA stars and prolific personalities Shaquille O'Neal (2011) and Magic Johnson (2012), Virgin founder and billionaire business tycoon Richard Branson, and South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu.
(*See the full lineup and program for Friday's Vancouver We Day show here.)
We Day is the movement of our time, empowering a generation of young global citizens through an inspirational event and a year-long educational initiative called We Act, which offers curricular resources, campaigns and materials to help turn the day's inspiration into sustained activation.
We Act is the blueprint for young people to take action as agents of social change.
Why? Because we believe that we are the first generation that can truly end the worst forms of poverty, embrace we thinking and we acting and remove the barriers to youth being agents of social change. And there's no time to waste: every single day we have the opportunity to make this world a better place. And everyone has a role to play.
How are we doing this? By pushing forward the boundaries of charity and creating change. It's a worldwide movement that proves anyone can change the world—and revolutionizes how we make that change.
*Photos of Vancouver's 2013 line-up from WeDay.com...
Photos of performers and speakers from Vancouver's We Day 2013 (Friday, October 18, 2013)...
Marc and Craig Kielburger
Craig Kielburger and Kofi Annan
Craig Kielburger, Spencer West, and Hedley lead singer Jacob Hoggard
Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger
Martin Luther King III
Also, photos of past We Day events (source: WeDay.com)...