The inaugural We Day UK took place on Friday 7th March – a stadium-sized celebration of social action and global citizenship organised by international charity Free the Children. As an educational partner of Free the Children and a supporter of the event, a couple of ASDAN staff were lucky enough to attend the event.
We Day youth empowerment events are hugely popular in Canada and the USA, and 12,000 young people and teachers gathered at Wembley Arena for the first ever We Day to take place outside of North America. All of the young people and teachers in the audience, from 380 UK schools, had earned their ticket by completing at least one local and one global charitable action to raise awareness and funds for the issues they are passionate about.
The founders of Free the Children, brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger, took to the stage to tell their story of how they set up the charity as teenagers when they read a story about child labour and decided they needed to act. Encouraging young people to see that they can make a difference to the world is at the heart of what this charity does – developing skills and building confidence along the way. Young people from UK schools shared with the audience how they had raised money for their causes as part of We Act – a social action programme that Free the Children delivers in schools.
The youth empowerment event hosted several inspirational speakers, including educational activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai, former vice-president Al Gore and entrepreneur Richard Branson. The young people were also treated to performances from Diversity, Dizzee Rascal, Jennifer Hudson and Ellie Goulding. Other attendees included actor Clive Owen, Harry Potter star Ivanna Lynch, Free the Children ambassador Spencer West, Team GB Paralympian Martine Wright and even HRH Prince Harry, who took to the stage to show his support and admiration for the charitable work that the young people in the audience had done, he said: "Some people don’t think it’s cool to help others. Personally, I think it’s the coolest thing in the world.”
As Craig and Marc Kielburger said during the event, We Day is just the start – it marks the beginning of a year of social action through the We Act programme. Teachers attending the event were given access to free packs of resources to help them continue their good work in the classroom and one young person in the audience was lucky enough to win a scholarship trip to India with Free the Children as part of their Build a School campaign.
The buzz in the arena was incredible, with young people excited and proud to celebrate the good work they had done with others. While it’s hard to find a teenager that isn’t excited about the chance to see Ellie Goulding perform, it was encouraging to see that the biggest cheer and standing ovation was for Malala – a young person who had stood up for what she believed and made a change to the world – something that the young people I overheard on the tube journey home had a huge amount of admiration for.
After the event comments, photos and videos flooded social networks, with Ellie Goulding posting on Instagram ‘Enjoyed today so much. Thank you for having me We Day! Inspired more than ever!’ The event was mentioned on national radio station Kiss FM and Prince Harry’s appearance made the front page of many newspapers on Saturday morning.
Were you among the 380 schools at We Day UK? Have you been using the We Act programme in your school? If so, we’d love to hear from you.