There is something afoot amongst our young people. Something big is coming. Let me tell you what I think history will say about this young generation, based what I saw this week at the Kitchener Aud this week for We Day 2013.
It will say that this is a generation that made ENORMOUS positive strides forward, in creating a world that cares for everyone, that looks out for the suffering, that believes in fairness and lives with a positive energy. I think there is a change happening, that is positive and powerful. It is very easy to only see the bad and the negative in our world (it seems to be every where), and to criticize youth for all of their shortcomings (has there EVER been a youthful generation that wasn’t criticized by its elders…and anyway, that makes you sound old, so stop it already!) Forget about what is easy and look closer at what young people are really doing for their communities and their world.
I had the pleasure of participating in We Day in Waterloo Region this week, and all I can say is WOW! This is a venture to support the positive, amazing work of the organization Free the Children, founded by two brothers from Canada (Craig and Marc Kielburger – who in my head were still teenagers, but apparently in the years since my oldest child was in elementary school and learning about their charitable work they also grew up – this is what happens when you get old…people you have not seen since they were young, tend to stayyoung in your head until such a time as you see them again and don’t recognize them because they are now grown-ups and you are just wondering where are the time has gone…but I digress…I just made myself sound old now too).
I was assigned the task of following and photographing Marc Kielburger during the We Day events (I was in an actual entourage! I was way cool…okay, saying stuff like that completely makes me sound decidedly UNCOOL, and I will try to keep that business to a minimum LOL). I was also photographing a reception the night before We Day, and had the pleasure of photographing and meeting Martin Luther King III, who is the eldest son of the Martin Luther King Jr. Of all the celebrities and speakers for We Day Waterloo region, he was the one I was most excited about meeting.
We Day was spent following Marc and photographing everything he was involved with that day. Here are a few highlights for me from the event:
1. Meeting and hearing Martin Luther King III speak (I may have mentioned him already…it was truly an honour. Read more about him at HERE.
Martin Luther King III and Marc Kielburger
I was all business that day, but I did have two teary-eyed moments. One was when we were in the auditorium, with all of the kids, and they played a clip from MLK’s very inspirational and famous “I have a dream” speech. It was a very stirring moment.
2. Kids (and adults) greeting Marc like he was a rock star – There was a mom at one point that thanked Marc for his contributions and she said she wishes all kids could know him and his brother and be able to look up to them as they do rockstars, rather than actual rockstars, because they are such brilliant examples of how live a good and contributing life. I couldn’t agree more! And people DID vie to have a moment to speak with him everywhere we went, and asking for photos with him. He accommodated as many as he could (even breaking some rules about where people could go behind the scenes to do so, making the security people a bit annoyed…oops! LOL)
What I loved is that when he talked to kids, he asked them all, “so what is YOUR passion?” And he sincerely wanted to know and thoroughly listened to their answers, commenting and giving them ideas for how they could take that passion and do something great for others with it. As a mom, well, I just loved that (but remember, I was surrounded by young people all day, so I am TRYING not to sound TOO old or mom-ish…but I still loved it haha).
3. This event was run by a very large group of under 30’s and they did a tremendous job! I have no idea how old most of the Free the Children and We Day staff are, but they are definitely younger than me, and I was completely impressed. We Day is a professional event of the highest caliber and they put on a GREAT show.
Add to that, there were many young people that presented performances and speeches on stage. I wished I had been in the auditorium to hear them all, but the parts I did hear were outstanding!
This young speaker is Hannah Alper…she is 10! Here is her blog…prepare to be amazed by her (I definitely was!)
4. Marc and Craig on stage…they are dynamos! Their energy and enthusiasm for changing the world is infectious!
5. Who gets to GO to We Day? I mean, what kid wouldn’t want to skip school and spend the day at this amazing event? But the place only holds 6000 kids! This is one of my favourite things I learned that day. You can’t buy a ticket to We Day. The ONLY way to get a ticket is to earn it through your school and by doing two charitiable projects each year, one local and one global. ANY project your school chooses.
Each school that completes their projects gets a block of seats that they can give to the most deserving students (or by lottery if they don’t want to choose among so many great kids).
The other favourite thing I learned that day, was the impacts We Day has had on kids and communities. Here are a few numbers to impress you:
– $26,000,000 raised since 2009 for over 900 causes
– 5, 100,000 hours since 2009 of volunteer hours
– 278,000 kids since 2009 from 9 cities participated in We Day (in CANADA!)
And how does participating change our youth? A study found that:
– 73% of youth that participated in Free the Children programming agree or strongly agree that it caused them to be more socially active
– 80% of them volunteered over 150 hours in the year preceeding the study
– 83% had made a charitable donation in the year preceeding the study
– 73% of those of voting age had voted in the federal election (just so you know, that has the rest of us beat for voter turnout! I think that tells you this is a very influential and involved group of youth).
(all of those numbers and many more are on the We Day website, if you want to read more.)
6. Community support is very important. We Day, as I said, is a very professional event, with the staging, lighting, sound, venue, security, etc. etc. etc. It is meant to be a pep rally for the kids, but that takes money and support from companies and organizations. Our We Day has been supported from the beginning both with money and volunteer hours by Blackberry. The future of Blackberry’s sponsorship is unclear because of the rocky seas they are on right now, but there is no doubt at all that Blackberry has always been an amazing supporter of the Waterloo region, and their involvement in this project shows that in spades. THANK YOU Blackberry!
In addition to Blackberry, many companies and organizations sponsor this event. AND an army of volunteers, young and old (mostly young, but I was happy to see come of us older folks using our walkers that day to get around…).
7. My other teary-eyed moment doesn’t have a photo (well, it does but I decided not to share it publically), but it happened when a very inspiring young woman was chatting to Marc and a few local sponsors. It was a great chat, she is a very bright and smart young girl who is struggling with a very tough circumstance in her life, but the smile she was wearing on her face tells me that she will do amazing things. She was offered a very generous gift during that conversation. She smiled and sincerely thanked them for the offer of the gift, but said she would really like it more if they took the money and gave it to children that needed it more than her…O.M.G. I was happy to have my camera in front of my face in that moment. Lovely and inspiring.
8. One of the parts of We Day that the kids really love is the music! This event is FILLED with music by alot of very talented performers. Here is where I have to say…I was not going to get all ridiculous over any celebrity sightings that day, you know, because I am “mature” and all that…but I did feel a bit giddy when we passed Nelly Furtado in the hallway…I kinda LOVE her…
And the whole show closed with a performance by Down With Webster (who I TOTALLY knew who they were, AND knew the words to their songs…one of those songs is already currently in my workout playlist, so yeah, not so old lady-ish afterall!)
(I totally recognize the lady doth protest too much on this age thing…anyhoo…)
So a good time was had by all! What is the take-away for me from this event? First, I feel very appreciative and optimistic about the future, if it is the hands of these kids. Second, I feel like I definitely need to step up my own game when it comes to doing good in the world. I do okay, but I definitely could be doing more.
Finally, it is time for all of us, young and old, to stop with the negative, the ugly, the what’s-in-it-for-me, and to do better. We all can. When you know better, you do better. The world is really big and really complex, the problems sometimes seem larger than life, and it may feel like you can’t do enough of anything to make a difference. But its just not true. Every single small thing you and I do to create positivity for someone else, adds up to so much! Don’t get overwhelmed, just start. Pick a place and start.
I have chosen where I want to start…where will you begin?
Julie Tauro is the owner and main photographer at Tauro Photography. Tauro Photography has been providing photography services for families in the Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge since 2002. She also has been humbled and inspired by a very big group of kids this week.