ASDAN is proud to be an educational partner of international charity Free the Children and as such a few colleagues and I were lucky enough to be invited to attend WE Day 2016 at the SSE Arena, Wembley this week. WE Day is the initiative of Free the Children and runs alongside WE Schools, an ongoing five step educational programme that involves over 10,000 schools across North America and the UK. It challenges young people to take action on both local and global issues, such as poverty and the environment. Activities include raising money for local and global charities through bake sales and sponsored walks, collecting food for local food banks and selling Rafiki jewellery through the We Are Rafiki campaign. Tickets for WE Day cannot be bought, only earned through the work the students undertake through WE Schools, which makes the day of celebration even more rewarding for the young people attending.
This is the third year that WE Day has taken place in the UK and we were all looking forward to joining the 12,000 young people and teachers who were attending. The day began with a speech for the educational partners from Craig Kielburger, who founded Free the Children with his brother Marc at the age of twelve after reading about a former child slave of the same age from Pakistan who had been killed for speaking up about human rights. Kielburger was so shocked by the story that he took immediate action by raising awareness with the help of their school friends. Hearing him speak about the amazing work that the charity and the young people involved have done since then was incredibly inspiring and I was instantly drawn in by his passion and humility. It was a fantastic way to begin the day and gave us a real understanding of the importance of WE Schools and WE Day and the wonderful work that these young people had undertaken to earn their ticket.
It was then time for the event to begin so we took our seats in the arena where the atmosphere was truly electric. Thousands of young people and teachers were excitedly chatting and dancing, eagerly awaiting the first act – singer, songwriter and producer Labrinth.
The show was filled with a range of inspirational speakers including WE Day UK co-chairs Holly Branson and Lord Rumi Verjee, Professor Brian Cox OBE, singer and actress Rita Ora, author and Free the Children ambassador Spencer West and Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin, amongst numerous music and dance acts.
Amongst the crowd were many students who had earned their ticket through undertaking ASDAN programmes, including our Personal Development Programmes which offer imaginative ways of developing, recording and certificating a wide range of young people’s personal skills, qualities and achievements. Modules include The Community, The Environment and The Wider World, all of which link with the vision and values of the WE Schools programme.To see the young peoples’ enthusiastic response to such positive and inspirational role models was fantastic. At a time when they have so many issues facing them including cyber bullying, body image and self esteem issues and a rise in child mental health problems, it was reassuring to see that there are charities, events, programmes and role models like these that are clearly having a real impact. In fact, Free the Children’s figures show that three out of four teachers believe their students are now more optimistic about their long-term future because of their involvement with WE schools and ‘87% of teachers have seen increased leadership among their students’.
WE Day was a truly inspirational and enjoyable event that I feel very privileged to have been a part of. My colleagues and I all left feeling motivated to take action against the important issues raised throughout the day and will no doubt be spending the next few weeks and months thinking of more ways that we can help to ‘change the world’.