After 25 years, we are now closing the final chapter on WE Charity Canada and passing the torch to WE Charity Foundation. I am proud of the work we’ve done, and tremendously grateful for the countless supporters who have helped us create such extraordinary impact at home and around the world. And I’m also grateful that that flagship projects so instrumental to our community partners will now be under the stewardship of the experienced team at WCF.
From an early age, I knew I wanted to use my voice to change the world. At 13, I volunteered in Jamaica at a local hospice for teenage mothers and a home for elderly homeless people suffering from leprosy. This experience had a profound impact on my life and led me to co-found Free The Children with my brother Craig so that we could create a platform for other youth such as ourselves to raise their voices and take action.
This initiative eventually grew to become “WE Charity” and catalyzed a global movement of passionate, dedicated change-makers.
Over the years, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to engage tens of thousands of young people, teachers, families, and companies from all walks of life, empowering them to take action on issues they care about and supporting them with tools to better the world for their communities and themselves. The impact we’ve created together has truly been awe-inspiring.
We did this through WE Schools innovative service-learning programs, a robust library of free digital tools and resources for educators that engage students and teach them critical skills that will help them become caring and compassionate global citizens. These programs and resources helped turned the tide of youth volunteers in Canada, from least likely to step up and help out to most likely.
To celebrate and honour the incredible actions of these students and those of their teachers, we launched WE Day, an annual series of global events featuring extraordinary speakers, performers and real-world stories of change. Tickets were earned by making an impact on local and global causes, and over the years more than one million students attended WE Day celebrations.
Through WE Schools, we launched WE Well-being to bring mental health and well-being into the classroom. Developed in collaboration with leading mental health professionals, the program is designed to help youth and educators improve their own mental well-being and the well-being of others through a prevention and promotion strategy that turns evidence-based science into easy, everyday actions.
Overseas, we partnered with communities in Kenya, India, Ecuador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and many more to implement our WE Villages five-pillar development model, which tackles the root causes of poverty through an integrated approach that addresses access to clean water, health care, education, food security and economic opportunity. Together with community leaders and members, we co-created sustainable solutions that have transformed lives, not just in the immediate future but for generations to come.
Since we announced the winding down of WE Charity in Canada, we have worked with these same communities to ensure sustainability and to finalize our development projects. As intended, these communities will soon have the local capacity to lead these projects and to plan for their future needs, such as population growth. We continue to work closely with community leaders and members, WCF’s Board of Directors, and the Executive leadership of WE Charity to facilitate a smooth transition.
As I look back on our 25-year journey, it is with both pride and humbleness. From our beginnings as a group of kids taking over our parents’ house, to creating a worldwide movement for good, we have been supported every step of the way by the overwhelming generosity, passion and love of far too many people to count.
As I look ahead, I’m incredibly thankful to the incoming Board of Directors of the WE Charity Foundation for their leadership and governance in ensuring that WE Charity’s legacy of sustainable impact overseas will continue to grow and benefit others for generations to come.