SEATTLE — March 27, 2013 — At the age of 12, while looking for the morning comics in the newspaper, Craig Kielburger stumbled upon a news item about a 12-year-old boy killed in Pakistan for speaking out against child labor. Outraged by the story, he desperately wanted to do something to help. After a number of phone calls and attempts to contact nonprofit organizations, Kielburger realized it wasn’t so easy for kids to get involved with social activism. That’s when he got an idea.
That same year, the young Canadian founded his own nonprofit, Free The Children, to pave the way for kids to help other kids around the world. Twelve years later, in 2007, Kielburger took his organization to the next level, launching the We Act program in schools across Canada and creating a more widespread approach to helping youth make a difference. As part of the program, Free The Children hosts a celebration in each participating city called We Day.
Today Microsoft Corp. is helping bring We Act to the U.S. by sponsoring a We Day event at Seattle’s KeyArena. The support springs from the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative, which aims to create opportunities for 300 million young people around the world over the next three years.
YouthSpark and We Day: An Inspiring Fit
Kids attending We Day Seattle will explore how they can make a difference by turning their passions and talents into social action. They’ll also get to rock out to live music, be inspired by celebrities and activists, and connect with one another around their common desire to change the world. In fact, every young person in attendance today has made a commitment to contribute their time to one local and one global social action project. This stadium-sized celebration rewards kids for their participation in the yearlong We Act program, which provides Seattle-area students and educators with free educational resources, pre-packaged campaigns for students to lead in support of community service and international development projects, and guidance to help kids use their passion and talents to get involved in their local and global communities.
As part of the Seattle We Day event, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will speak to the audience of 15,000 youth about his passion for technology and how it can help change the world. The celebration also will feature presentations by world-renowned activists, such as Martin Luther King III, Magic Johnson, Mia Farrow and Martin Sheen; musical performances by award-winning singers and musicians including Jennifer Hudson and Nelly Furtado; and testimonials from local heroes who have made a difference either in the Seattle community or around the globe.
“We Day fits right in with our YouthSpark initiative, which is about empowering young people to imagine and realize their full potential,” says Lori Harnick, general manager of the Global Citizenship and Public Affairs Team at Microsoft. “Technology plays a big role in this empowerment by providing young people with the tools and skills to pursue their dreams, and an event such as We Day provides the inspiration to turn talent into transformation.”
At We Day, young people come together to discover how they can channel their talent, energy, focus and expertise to solve societal challenges in their local communities and around the world.
“Free The Children’s mission is about freeing children all over the world from poverty, exploitation, violence, bullying and all the negatives, but it’s also about freeing young people at home from the idea that they’re too young to make a difference and from the limits that are often put on their potential,” Kielburger says. “When you come to a We Day event, you stand in a stadium with all these other kids who feel as motivated as you do and you realize that changing the world is possible.”
Along those lines, Free The Children created We Act to bring community service learning to youth in a more effective way. The We Act program uses a simple equation to motivate young people to take steps toward making a difference: Gift + Issue = Change. By helping kids apply their unique gifts and identify their personal issue, We Act shows them how simple it is to make a difference.
“We want to establish community engagement as an educational pillar in every person’s life as much as reading, writing, arithmetic, music or sports,” Kielburger says. “We’ll have more than 100 school districts across Washington taking part in this program. We would never have had the opportunity to provide We Day, along with the We Act program in schools, without the financial support of an amazing corporate citizen such as Microsoft.”
Microsoft also has supplied volunteers and technology to power the state-of-the-art event. Kids at the event will have an opportunity to connect online with communities around the world, and special guests will dial in via Skype to share their community service experiences. In addition, event attendees and We Day online viewers will have the opportunity to write a short statement about their commitment to change the world and enter a sweepstakes to win Microsoft Surface or Windows Phone 8 devices. Beyond helping make We Day possible, Microsoft has supplied Seattle-area middle and high schools participating in the We Act program with technology and other resources to help support students and their commitment to changing their world.
YouthSpark Ambassadors and Reporters
Specifically for We Day, Microsoft has equipped 50 YouthSpark ambassadors — selected from schools participating in the We Act program — with a Microsoft Surface device, which they will use to share their experience at KeyArena with their classmates, friends, family and those tuning in from around the world (click here to stream the live webcast). In addition, three youth will have special access to roam the arena on We Day and interview participants, including celebrities, business participants and community leaders, about their experiences; capture backstage excitement; and tweet and blog about the event as a Microsoft YouthSpark reporter.