from the desk of Rosita Tam, Director of Instruction at KGMS.
Last Thursday, I had the privilege of attending We Day at the Rogers Arena with 26 KGMS students and five staff members. The journey to earn attendance to this event started in September 2011 when John Rodgers, our Div. 6 teacher, taught a social studies unit on global village to his students in Grades 6 & 7. Margaret Haines, our teacher-librarian got on board to support the classroom instruction to expand this integrated theme unit to raise social awareness by including the Craig Kielburger story. Craig, as most of you know, at age 12 took a stand against child labour and went on his quest to free children in the third world from this oppression. Today he and his brother, Mark, head an organization called Free the Children. This organization works with children and youth globally to support communities in education, health, sanitation and generation of sustainable alternative income. Their motto is “From Me to We”, and one day is designated in each academic year as a “We Day”. The purpose of this day is to gather young people around the province in one location to experience the synergy and inspiration created in a vision of giving to the global community.
Throughout 2011/2012, our students, under the guidance of the social responsibility team, embarked on a journey that earned their attendance in this event. At this time, I would like to acknowledge the social responsibility team and thank them for the hard work they have put in thus far in guiding the students to this point. Carolynn Fast, our team leader, connected with Free the Children and invited speakers to come and streamline our fund raising efforts. So, with bake sales, no uniform days, car washes, freezie sales, the team not only raised funds to support a rural village in Nicaragua, we also raised awareness of the plight of children in developing countries within our school community. We learned to be more socially conscious of needs around us, to be more responsible in our giving, and most importantly, the students are empowered to move from the me mentality to the we kind of thinking.
The We Day in Vancouver is one of eight events across the country. All the participants of the day have embarked on a similar journey as ours, and they represent over 60 school districts from around the province. Therefore, the energy that these 20,000 young people bring to the arena is electrifying and palpable.
At this time, I want to thank Nelson publishing, a corporate sponsor of We Day. It is because of their invitation to additional VIP seating that all 32 of of us from KGMS are able to attend this event.
The event’s theme of bullying cannot be more timely due to Amanda Todd’s recent suicide. Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of Free the Children, explained that this theme was chosen in 2011 because this is the number one issue that children and youth face today, the problem further exacerbated by the fact that internet and social network are readily accessible. Guests at the event spoke about their personal experiences ranging from personal to community to political systems. Molly Burke, who at 14 lost her eye sight due to a degenerative retinal disease talked about how she was bullied mercilessly that she came close to losing hope. Burke, now 18, shared her story to reach out to young people who are dealing with similar situations because she understood what it is like to feel all alone. Demi Lovato, an Americal pop singer and anti-bullying advocate, showed the motto inked on her wrist: Stay Strong, and shared about how she suffered from self esteem and felt cursed as a teenager. Magic Johnson, the five-time NBA champion, who has become an HIV/AIDS prevention advocate, talked about how he made use of his adversity – testing HIV positive – to go public with his diagnosis to help bring open dialogue to this topic. Today, he is able to stop the discrimination against HIV, and he encourages students to embrace differences because bullying is not cool. Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Laureate, shared about the oppression he experienced. He recalled his struggles in apartheid South Africa where there was physical, emotional and psychological bullying endorsed by a political system.
I am very thankful for the opportunity to have been in the audience for such distinguished speakers. The synergistic experience is life changing. The power of WE is visually demonstrated as the 20,000 participants waved our little electric light to join in the call for change. As Marc Kielburger quoted Mohandas Gandhi’s mantra, Be the Change, we were ready to respond by standing up – to stop bullying, to fund raise for children in developing countries, to relieve hunger, to support education and health efforts, so that we can deliver a better world than we found it to the next generation.
The four staff members and the 26 students came back with a renewed commitment to continue our efforts, and as we plan this year’s fund raising efforts, we can truly attest that we are the ones who benefit the most from the giving of our time and energy. We are strengthened by the message of perseverance and hard work. As Craig Kielburger reminded us, Free the Children started when one teacher responded to one child’s request to talk about social injustice in child labour practices in a grade 6 classroom 17 years ago. Today, this one child, Craig himself, is on the stage, leading a global community to stand up against social injustice and tap into the power of WE. We are humbled by what one person can do.