Guest post and photos by Kate McKenzie On the morning of Oct. 27, I watched as 16,000 teenagers piled out of buses that travelled—since 4 a.m. in some cases—to arrive at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary for the hottest ticket in town: We Day. However, tickets to We Day are not for sale. To gain entry, students from across the province earn their way through local and global actions for charitable causes. In fact, I learned that, since 2007, We Day participants from Canada, U.S. and U.K have volunteered 19.9 million hours. Craig Kielberger, the co-founder of We Day, explained: “We see the negatives of violence, poverty, suffering, need, but We Day is about celebrating the shamelessly idealistic spirit that we can overcome those. And we will.”
Craig Kielberger speaks at We Day Alberta.The schedule of We Day is action packed, featuring a different speaker, performer or challenge to the audience literally every eight minutes. We DAY 2015 in Calgary featured a star-studded lineup, including Olympian rower, Silken Laumann; Grammy-winning country music group, The Band Perry; Academy Award—winning actress Marlee Matlin; and Henry Winkler (a.k.a. The Fonz). Speakers emphasized the need for positive change within as the first step to making the world a better place. Laumann reminded students, “Especially when we’re in moments of adversity, it’s our ability to think beyond now that’s so incredibly powerful.” Does all this star power just whip students into a celebrity frenzy? Calgary student, Javeria Atique, says it’s about much more than that. “The most powerful message I learned was change starts with you. It isn't someone who is smarter than you or has more money than you; it's simply someone who has a spark of hope and compassion to see the world in a better place than it is from today.” This We Day generation is heralding a new way of thinking that celebrates compassion and engagement. From speaker Mackenzie Murphy, who championed anti-bullying legislation to fellow Albertan Rameez Virji who invented a pill for immunizations, youth are creating change locally and globally.
Writer Kate McKenzie poses with Craig Kielberger at We Day Alberta.Kielberger’s plans don’t stop here. His next initiative is to engage rural and hard to reach communities in Canada. “A program that we’ve launched very recently that we’re very passionate about is called Sacred Circle, which is working with young Aboriginal leaders,” says Kielberger. He hopes Sacred Circle will encourage Canadians to realize young people are not “a problem to be solved." "We want to see them as problem solvers.” As I look out into the crowd of lit up cell phones waving along to The Band Perry’s “We Will Live Forever,” I can’t help but hope that at least their enthusiasm for creating positive change will live forever, because these ticket holders have earned their right to lead.
Kate McKenzie is an artist, educator and the founder of Worldviews Project, an online media platform featuring positive and inspiring stories. Kate recently returned from a six month cross-Canada journey filming a 13-part documentary web-series about innovative Canadians who are making their communities better. Kate currently lives in Calgary and she was Canadian Living 's We Day Ambassador at We Day Alberta 2015.