Revisiting We Day in Ottawa –
When I was in high school my favourite extra-curricular activity was the Social Justice club. I belong to that club since the first year of high school and many of the activities that I participated in were some of the best things about high school for me. We had public awareness campaigns by taking a vow of silence for a day (We Are Silent), fundraisers and food bank drives (We Scare Hunger). We created an atmosphere of social activism that impacts my life to this day. One of the best parts of belonging to the Social Justice Club was being a part of We Day. It is a day to celebrate the accomplishments of all those youth that earned their way to this event. Through the WE Schools program, students must participate in one local and one global campaign to earn the right to go. Me to We was created to help harness the power of youth and let them know that one person can make a different but many create a bigger effect. So on November 10th, at the Canadian Tire Center, with 16,000 very enthusiastic students, I was able to attend the celebration of student volunteerism, activism and social change that is WE DAY.
Two summers ago I was able to go on a 2 week long Me to We trip to Ecuador with about 25 other students and I can’t deny that it was one of the most positive experiences of my life to date. I learned so much about Ecuadorean culture and food, I discovered a lot about myself and I made a ton of new friends. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be who I am today without that trip and it was a great inspiration in my decision to pursue my degree in International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa.
I’ve been to We Day Toronto twice before in high school and I was thrilled to discover that there was a We Day Ottawa when I was looking through Me to We’s volunteer opportunities. Now that’s it’s been over 2 years since I’ve been to a We Day, I was interested in seeing what the event would be like through the eyes of a second year university student. With my new found knowledge on development models, local and global issues, and intersectional feminism, I was able to critically analyze and catch up on more details than the average elementary or secondary student.
— We Day (@weday) November 27, 2015
We Day is a great event to encourage kids to do more in their local and global communities. Although we live in a very individualistic society, Me to We sees the potential power or working together to create change, hence their ongoing theme for this year, moving from “me” to “we” acting, building a better world, speaking out and making a choice for positive change. In our world with so many world issued impacting us, it behoves us to teach our youth that they have the ability to make an impact. One of the most important parts of We Day is to motivate kids through words and deeds. Hear from inspirational speakers that will let them know that they can make a difference. Did you know that WE Day is one of the world’s largest non-profits on Facebook with over 3.4 million likes and almost 1 million followers on Twitter? Although I didn’t get to watch the entire show, I had a great time listening to some of the guests speak about topics such as Aboriginal rights and self-love. Most speakers had between 2-5 minutes to speak, which I found to be a little short at first but then I realized it’s because I listen to 90 minute lectures every day… What I always find impressive is the diversity of speakers and Me to We Ambassadors that Me to We brings to We Day, from young innovators like Alex Deans to YouTube superstar Lilly Singh (aka iiSuperwomanii) to activist Rick Hansen and of course, this year’s special guests Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégroire-Trudeau (what is pretty cool is that that appearance was the very first time that JT spoke in public after his innauguration at Prime Minister. I hope that speaks to his belief in the youth that will be leaders of tomorrow!). There were also a handful of musical guests, including Simple Plan, Shawn Hook and Jillea. Although I would have to say that my favourite performance was JRDN accompanied by the Kenyan Boys Choir. Working at the general merchandise booth was a fun experience, although tiring at times. Since there are only t-shirts, sweaters, bracelets and posters for sale, the position itself wasn’t in anyway difficult. We had plenty of sales to excited students, no problematic customers and only had to fill out minor paperwork during the breaks. Needless to say, when it quieted down, we would go watch the show in the arena. With over 1000 volunteers for We Day Ottawa, Me to We did a fantastic job of keeping us all organized and positive. At the pre-event training day, we were given snacks and received a pep talk from long time We Day speaker Spencer West. The day of, the supervisors often encouraged us to go watch the show or go grab a snack from the Volunteer Zone if ever we felt tired. Everyone was offered some morning refreshments as well as a catered lunch of pita wraps. There was also an endless supply of water bottles and pears and apples (which were so delicious that I may have taken a few for the road #studentlife). Overall the experience was very positive and feel that we helped yet another group of young students to take stock of what they can do for others. We have the capacity to make changes in this world. We can make an impact if we work together. We can make a difference… that is why I love We Day!
Almost been a week since #WeDay w/ special guest and cool guy @justinpjtrudeauA photo posted by Lauren P Ibbott (@lauren_patii) on
If you ever wonder how WE Day inspires kids you need to go no further than the independent third-party research by US based social impact consulting firm Mission Measurements. Research has proven that WE Day and the accompanying yearlong WE Schools program generates powerful behavioural impacts including:
- 91% of students felt strongly about turning their inspiration into actions after WE Day
- 95% of educators said students have demonstrated increase leadership
- 80% of alumni volunteer more than 150 hours a year (you can count me in this group )
Lauren Ibbott is a second year University of Ottawa student, blogger and freelance writer. She frequently writes for DownshiftingPRO. Please follow her on Instagram @Lauren_Patii All opinions are her own. You can read more of her post below:
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About Me to We and WE Day:
WE Day is a celebration of youth making a difference in their local and global communities. WE Schools is the yearlong program that nurtures compassion in young people and gives them the tools to create transformational social change. Together they offer young people the tools and the inspiration to take social action, empower others and transform lives – including their own.
Since 2007, youth involved in WE Schools have achieved remarkable results:
- $62 million raised for more than 2,500 local and global organizations
- 19.9 million hours volunteered for local and global causes
- 7.6 million pounds of food collected by youth
- 10.5 million hours of silence logged by youth who took a stand for children in developing communities who are denied their rights