Students gather at ACC for 'We Day' celebration
Some of the world's most influential social activists gathered with Toronto schoolchildren on Thursday morning, at an event targeting positive change around the world.
Some 20,000 students filled the Air Canada Centre for We Day, singing, cheering and dancing during a day of appearances from Olympian Alexandre Bilodeau, award-winning author Deepak Chopra and Canadian musician K'naan, among others.
We Day, a Free the Children event, is designed to launch young student ambassadors into a year's worth of charity work in their local communities and abroad.
To date, We Day has helped raise more than $5 million for Free the Children programs.
Robin Wiszowaty, a spokeswoman for Free the Children in Kenya, told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday that the message was about empowering youth to help change the world.
At the age of 21, Wiszowaty moved to Kenya and lived in a mud hut. She wrote a book titled "My Maasai Life" about the lessons of respect and generosity she learned during her journey.
"I also learned that there is no template that we need to live our life by, that we can choose every day who we want to be, and the scenario we want to be in," she said in an interview from the Air Canada Centre.
She added that young Canadians don't have to move to Kenya to make a difference, but can determine their own way to help.
Other scheduled speakers included Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams; Cherie Blair, wife of the former Prime Minster of the United Kingdom, and former child ;soldier Michel Chikwanine.
Chikwanine joined Free the Children four years ago after he met founders Craig and Marc Kielburger.
Enlisted to fight in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the age of 10, Chikwanine said he has struggled with his experiences and sought a productive outlet through which to help.
"There are so many struggles that everybody goes through every single day," he told CTV's Canada AM. "But we are not supposed to look at them as struggles, rather look at them as opportunities for us to move forward as human beings, and move a message of peace as well."
We Day is part of a larger Free The Children initiative that includes a school fundraising program that has helped build 150 houses in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, China, Haiti and Sri Lanka.
"In the last year, We Day's inspirational messages propelled students into action volunteering over one million hours of service and raising $1.5 million for local causes and $3 million for global causes," co-founder Craig Kielburger said in a statement.
The event is streaming live online at http://weday.ctv.ca.
A television special, "CTV Presents: We Day 2010," will air on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. ET.