Monday, 17 March 2014

We Day UK

We Day Logo.png




What is We Day?

I had never heard of it until the beginning of the month. I had just finished watching Season 2 of House of Cards on Netflix - I highly recommend you check it out - and I was stalking its stars on Twitter.

Kevin Spacey had posted a link to We Day UK, and I don't know why, but I felt compelled to click on it.

For years I've been afflicted by a compulsive condition which causes me to make questionable decisions late at night, like some kind of delinquent Gremlin. As I scrolled through the We Day page and came across the volunteer section, I thought "Yeah! I'll do that".

After submitting my application to volunteer in the middle of the night, I fell asleep feeling warm and charitable. When I woke up the next morning I thought "Oh... oh yes. Let's redress this situation" and logged back on to check what exactly I'd signed myself up for.

We Day is a Canadian arena event, organised by the Free The Children charity. We Day UK - as the name suggests - was held for the first time at Wembley Arena in London on March 7th. According to my new Canadian friend who I met at the volunteer training event, it's a huge deal there and the founders - Craig and Mark Kielburger - have serious celebrity status.


Free The Children have a great website if you want to read up on them. Their main goal is to eliminate child labour and improve living conditions in impoverished areas of rural China, India, Nicuragua and more. They do this by delivering sustainable charity, which basically means that instead of giving food parcels to a poor village, they donate goats. One of my favourite aspects is the African Mama initiative, of providing mothers with regular income streams rather than erratic handouts. Check out the 'Me To We' online shop here if you are interested.

So We Day is an event that has a dual purpose - it is a reward for the school children/teenagers who participated in Free The Children fundraising throughout the year, and it is a platform to encourage them to "be the change they want to see in the world".

Firstly, I was staggered by how well organised the Canadian We Day team were. Like, seriously. They also have the kind of self-assurance that the vast majority of Brits sadly lack, and every one of them was patient, friendly and extremely confident. I always admire assertiveness in others (because I think I lack it).

The calm before the storm... Wembley Arena


The mic table... manned stritctly by Canadians only


Lighting the stage up before the show


Me and a couple of my new volunteering chums in our AFRICA shirts


12,000 screaming children and their distressed teachers


My "shout out school" had front row seats


Give 12,000 children flashing wristbands for this effect at home


Diversity - the children LOVE Diversity


Lilah Parsons and Laura Whitmore did a passable job hosting


We Day UK co-chairs Hollie Branson and Lord Rumi Verjee


Sam and the Womp - apparently children love this too


MY HERO - Al Gore


So sexy in real life - Clive Owen


Boy did the crowd go wild for Prince Harry


The incredibly inspiring Malala Yousafzai 


 The gorgeous Birdy performing


An extremely blurry photo of Jennifer Hudson (can't take photos AND dance)


Evanna Lynch aka Luna Lovegood


Ellie Goulding closed the show... over a LOT of screaming


Wembley Stadium in the sun (the Arena itself is no looker)



So the day basically consisted of short speeches by various celebrities, activists, sports personalities, royalty, businessmen etc. interspersed with performances by some of the artists. You can check out the full line up here if you're interested. There were motivational and stirring words being fired at the children from all directions, and I truly hope that those words sink in and and inspire them all to carry on the good work that they have started.

My three highlights were the speeches by Al Gore, Malala Yousafzai and Martine Wright:

Al Gore is an actual legend - he's a badass activist and he has a sense of humour to boot (see Man Bear Pig and his appearance on 30 Rock if you need convincing).

Malala is a very unique girl, and listening to her speak is quite moving. To speak so frankly and with such maturity and determination... ahh, this world is a better place with Malala's voice in it. If you don't know her story, check it out here - you will be moved too.

I had heard of Martine Wright before We Day, but I didn't know her whole story and I hadn't heard her speak before. Wow. She was incredible. I'm so glad that her speech from the event is on YouTube now - please watch it! I couldn't begin to do it justice. She lost her legs in the 7/7 London bombings, that's all I'll say. She too is a badass.

My role on the day was on the "Youth Greeting Team" and I was assigned to a "shout out school". My school were getting a special surprise mention from Prince Harry for the work that they'd done. They were the youngest kids there, and they were So Excited. Coming from a family of teachers, it was cruel of me, but I wound those children up so much on the way into the arena that I think I've suffered permanent hearing loss, and if looks could kill their teachers would have finished me off. No earthly sound is louder than excited children screaming.

Basically I had an amazing day, and I am so happy that I volunteered. I will absolutely do it again next year, and I genuinely feel inspired to go "be the change".

I hope you all enjoyed this post... I will take my camera next time I do something so I don't have to rely on my phone to capture the moments.

Much love,

Ria

x

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