Free The Children is a youth empowerment organization that believes in a world where young people are free to achieve their fullest potential. Central to their programming is an event called ?We Day.? We Day is like a CGI for kids: an opportunity to make a commitment to better the local and global community, learn about how others their age are making a difference, and connect with like-minded youth. Designed to celebrate the power of young people to make a difference in their community, We Day is a stadium-sized event that brings together celebrities, local heroes, and thought-leaders to celebrate young people involved in Free the Children's programs.
We Day is more than just a one-day event: it launches a year-long series of actions to better communities. Students cannot buy a ticket to We Day - they must earn one through participation in ?We Act, ? a year-long educational program that provides teachers and students with the tools, resources, and skills they need to bring social issues to life in the classroom. Since 2007, more than 278,000 students have attended We Day events. Together, these young people have raised over $37 million for over 900 different local and global charities, have volunteered 9.6 million hours in their communities, and collected 4.0 million pounds of food for local food banks.
Through Free The Children's Adopt a Village initiative, a holistic international development program implemented in eight partner countries, students are empowered to support their peers overseas gain access to quality education. Today, over 55,000 children attend school daily thanks to youth fundraising initiatives, and over 1,000,000 people have access to clean water and medical care. Inspired by We Day and We Act, over 2,000 youth travel every year to visit these communities, and in 2012 alone, volunteered almost 250,000 hours to support projects on the ground.
Free The Children has developed a three-pronged approach to bringing We Day and We Act to new markets that it has found to be very effective. Before entering a new market, the organization seeks out:
1. Business Leaders and Champions: We Day Champions are most often business and community leaders, who are able to connect Free The Children with the right people in a new city or region. Past Champions have included Coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks and a Better Seattle and Dean and Hutton Phillips of the Phillips Family Foundation in Minnesota.
2. Educational Community: In addition to business partners who help to fund the programming, Free The Children seeks out education partners to ensure We Act programming is tailored to regional and state requirements. As they began their outreach in Minnesota, Free The Children partnered with Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius to help guide them through the Minnesota education system.
3. Media and Amplifiers: Finally, new markets require media or amplifying partners. By partnering with local media outlets, such as WCCO-TV in Minneapolis and Q13 Fox in Seattle, Free The Children was able to get the message out about upcoming We Day events. Additional amplifiers include local heroes and celebrity partners who are able to lend their voice to the cause. The partners have included individuals like NFL Coach Pete Carroll, Academy Award Winner Jennifer Hudson, and Richard Branson.
For upcoming We Day markets, Free The Children seeks to have partnerships secured at least six months in advance of the event. Therefore, by March of 2014, the organization hopes to have these relationships in place for events taking place in the fall of 2014.
When asked what the greatest challenge facing our world was, his Holiness the Dalai Lama answered that it was not war or famine or pollution: it was that we were raising a generation of passive bystanders. The solution to all of the greatest challenges facing the world today is to empower the next generation with the tools, inspiration, and opportunity to effect positive change. This is the foundation for We Day and We Act, a comprehensive year-long service learning program that works in partnership with the education system, to educate, engage and empower young people to take action in their local and global communities. Since 2007, We Day and We Act have spread across Canada, the United States and Great Britain.
We Day and We Act aim to empower youth and their communities to take action on the issues that matter to them. The ultimate goal of We Act and We Day are to systematically engrain service learning and global citizenship into the fabric of the local, regional and national school systems. By creating teacher-friendly, curriculum compatible educational supplements that are both educational and fun for students, We Day and We Act are revolutionizing the way that citizenship is taught across the world.
In addition to a network of nearly 2,000,000 youth, past and current supporters of We Day and We Act include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, the Skoll Foundation and Participant Media, the Ballmer Family, Paul G. Allen Foundation, Microsoft and Amway.