On 7th March 2014, over 400 United Learning excited pupils attended the very first We Day UK at Wembley Arena. They were part of a crowd of 12,000 pupils from across the UK, from over 400 schools. The aim of the event, which has been running in Canada and the US since 2007, is to inspire and empower pupils to make positive social change.
Pupils cannot buy a ticket to We Day; instead, every one of these pupils earned their ticket through participating in at least one local charitable action and one global charitable action through the We Act programme. This is a year-long active citizenship programme, run by Free the Children, an international charity and educational partner, working internationally to empower and enable youth to be agents of change.
Pupils from over 20 United Learning schools, including Manchester Academy, Surbiton High School, Shoreham Academy, Bournemouth Collegiate School, Hanwell Fields Community School and Hull Collegiate School (who were also lucky enough to stand on the red carpet as the celebrity guests arrived!) earned their tickets through a range of charity work:
- Pupils from Paddington Academy have organised a range of fundraising and charitable activities including sponsored silences, cake sales and talent shows, and are writing to MPs, lobbying for the UK government to ensure women’s rights are a priority in Afghanistan as UK troops are withdraw;
- At The Regis School, pupils organised a non-uniform day for which the charge was a can of food rather than the usual £1, raising over 800kg of food for their local food bank;
- Accrington Academy students have launched a coin drive for We Create Change, raising money to build a school overseas. They are also planning various other fundraisers, and are hoping to renovate a local community centre.
We Day Launch
Back in January Paddington Academy helped to launch We Day when over 300 students were joined by the Co-Chairs of We Day UK, Holly Branson and Lord Rumi Verjee, and Free the Children co-founder Craig Kielburger. The students were also surprised by a special appearance from 2013 X Factor finalist Sam Callahan.
At the launch, Craig spoke about the inaugural We Day UK and the background of the charity he set up with his brother, Marc, in 1995 when he was 12 years old. He said:
‘When I was young and wanted to make a difference in the world, there wasn’t much out there to support my dreams. I was told I was too young to make a difference. That’s what We Day provides young people today – a platform to learn about local and global issues, take action and celebrate the meaningful contribution they’re making to better our world.’
Paddington Academy Year 8 student Yassine Abdul-Wahid said:
‘The best thing about We Day is that it is about any issue that young people care about. The environment, bullying, homelessness, healthcare – it doesn’t matter what the issue is, it just matters that you care. Free The Children believes that whatever your age, and whatever your passion, you can change the world. We agree and we’re so excited about celebrating at We Day UK!’
The first UK We Day at Wembley Arena
The event itself was a wonderful celebration of young people leading change in their communities and in their world, and was, of course, a fantastic opportunity for pupils to listen to inspirational speakers.
The day was opened by Holly Branson, Lord Rumi Verjee and Marc and Craig Kielburger, who explained the history of Free the Children, and emphasised that just because they are young doesn’t mean they can’t make a difference.
‘We Day is about all of us saying yes to change!’ – Marc Kielburger.
Following this, the crowd were inspired by numerous speakers and performers including former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Sir Richard Branson, Malala Yousafzai, Paralympian Martine Wright and Prince Harry, whose message was:
‘Some people don’t think it’s cool to help others… personally, I think it’s the coolest thing in the world.’
The audience was also treated to performances from numerous artists including Ellie Goulding, Birdy, Jennifer Hudson, Sam and the Womp, and Dizzee Rascal.
Everyone finished the day having learnt four very important lessons:
- Find your passion
- Believe in yourself
- Speak up
- Be the change!
Each and every one of our pupils who attended the day left feeling moved, inspired, empowered and ready to make a change. As The Regis School pupils, Ellie Collins and Luci Hodges, Year 10, summarised:
‘We Day was a golden opportunity and we were privileged to be able to represent our school. Through doing this it has encouraged us and also inspired us to be the change to the world and to not stand aside, but to stand up. Our inspiration has come from many different sources throughout the event such as listening to global speakers who themselves have experienced the achievement which we wish to strive for in the future. We wish to attend We Day again sometime in the future, not as part of the audience but as an achiever and an idol to some. This We Day was a chance for many children all over the United Kingdom to create a life changing experience. We are the future generation for change!’
United Learning’s partnership with Free the Children
United Learning is honoured to be an Educational Partner of Free the Children, the charity that brought about the initiative of We Act and We Day.
Jon Coles, Group Chief Executive, said of the partnership:
‘Free The Children’s aims and our own are perfectly aligned so we are delighted to be supporting their work. There are some fantastic charitable and citizenship initiatives taking place across our schools and the support we have had from Free the Children has been invaluable. We look forward to continuing to work with Free the Children and building this relationship further.’
For more information about Free the Children and We Day, or to sign up your school for the We Act programme, please contact Victoria Russell-Robbins firstname.lastname@example.org