When a group of twelve twelve-year-olds gathered in my parents’ living room 20 years ago to draft a petition to end child labor, we felt strong together, but alone in the world. We were just a bunch of kids—could we really make a difference in the lives of other children overseas? We believed it, but would anyone else?
Today, we know we’re not alone. Millions of people—students, teachers, families, business leaders, and even celebrity ambassadors—have joined our group. So many, in fact, that we’ve had to give ourselves a new name. No longer the “twelve twelve-year-olds” or even Free The Children, the banner we marched under for years. WE is who we are now—a powerful movement dedicated to change, at home, abroad, and within each and every one of us.
On Sunday August 28, 2016, viewers across the country will see this vision come to life with the second annual US national broadcast of WE Day, airing on ABC at 7pm ET/6 pm CT.
WE Day is like the Olympics for change-makers. Combining the energy of a live concert with inspirational stories of change, the event fills stadiums around the globe. It showcases the actions of individuals and groups taking on some of the world’s most pressing issues, from inequality and the environment to homelessness and women’s rights.
The WE Day broadcast will bring the spirit of WE home to families across the country. This year’s show features an incredible lineup of speakers and performers who have stepped up to lend their voices to the movement—including Charlize Theron, Tyrese Gibson, Demi Lovato, Seth Rogen, Lauren Miller Rogen, Common, Selena Gomez, Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom, Rowan Blanchard, Jennifer Hudson, Paula Abdul, and even Kermit the Frog—along with scores of dynamic youth activists who are driving change in their communities and around the world.
WE Day is also our chance to honor the millions of initiatives that young people launch every year through WE Schools, a service learning program that challenges students to identify the issues that spark their passion and empowers them with the tools to take action. The program is active in more than 10,000 schools in North America and the UK. We’ve also partnered with the College Board in the United States to create AP with WE Service, integrating our learning framework into core Advanced Placement courses.
The impact of these young people is astounding. Since 2007, youth involved in WE Day and WE Schools programming have raised $62 million for more than 2,500 local and global organizations, volunteered 19.9 million hours and collected 7.6 million pounds of food for local food banks. In an independent study by social impact firm Mission Measurement, 95 percent of educators said students have demonstrated increased leadership as a result of our programming, and 89 percent of students feel empowered to make a positive difference in the world.
We know from experience that mentorship and support are vital to budding change-makers. Years ago, as our team first began working with communities overseas to build schools and wells, and provide for other basic needs, we struggled to find a sustainable funding source. We saw that other charities lurched from crisis to crisis, desperately trying to help but rarely staying long enough to empower people to help themselves for the long term.
Enter Jeff Skoll, and a radical new idea.
An invaluable mentor and now the Co-Chair of WE Day California, Jeff challenged us to rethink the traditional charity model and explore other ways of supporting our nonprofit work.
With his guidance, we laid the groundwork for ME to WE, a social enterprise that would provide consumers with eco-friendly and sustainable products, travel, and learning experiences, and create a lasting, predictable source of funding for WE Charity.
We believe this kind of innovative thinking has always been at the core of positive social change. It moved us to take our first steps as twelve-year-olds. It fueled our yard sale fundraisers and lemonade stands, and it continues to guide the WE movement as it grows.
By 2025, we’re aiming to create one billion impacts through WE Day, ME to WE, and WE Charity. It’s a massive goal, but when we see students becoming leaders, families coming together, WE Villages rising up, and individuals making choices with their communities in mind, we know we’re on track for real change.
We hope the WE Day broadcast will spark meaningful discussion in homes across the country—that families will tune in, take the message to heart, and join the movement for a better world.
WE Day airs commercial-free on ABC, Sunday August 28, 2016 at 7pm ET/6pm CT. Find out more about the broadcast.
Tune in and take the WE Pledge, and $10 will be donated on your behalf to support empowerment programs here and around the world.
Banner photo: Craig and Marc Kielburger addressing the crowd during the taping for the WE Day broadcast special airing August 28 7/6 on ABC. Photo credit: Scott Ramsay.