Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City to host We Day activities in November

Students to gather at event for social change

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Winnipeg will play host to We Day in November, bringing thousands of Manitoba schoolchildren to the MTS Centre to participate in a star-studded event sometimes called a rock concert for social change.

The event will be the kickoff for a We Schools In Action program to be launched in Manitoba schools. The provincial government has agreed to fund the educational part of the initiative, which gets youths involved in charitable work at the local and international levels.

Premier Greg Selinger will join We Day organizers today at a Winnipeg school to announce the Nov. 23 event.

We Day is an initiative of Free The Children, a Toronto-based organization founded by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger that engages youth in helping others in their own communities and around the world.

We Day events have been held in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Kitchener, Ont., featuring a wide variety of global leaders, social activists and entertainers, including Al Gore, the Dalai Lama, Jane Goodall, Martin Sheen, Robert Kennedy Jr., Sarah McLachlan and Justin Beiber. Gore headlined a We Day event last week in Kitchener where he urged about 6,000 students to fight against climate change.

"You can change the world for the better and don't let anybody ever tell you you can't," Gore told the young crowd. Others at the event included Jesse Jackson, R&B singer Shawn Desman, Mike "Pinball" Clemons, actors from Degrassi, the Barenaked Ladies and Assembly of First Nations chief Shawn Atleo. Former prime minister Paul Martin and Archbishop Desmond Tutu appeared in video messages.

The Winnipeg event is being spearheaded by a group of local business leaders, including Hartley Richardson, Mark Chipman and Bob Silver.

Representatives of Free The Children would not discuss the event prior to today's announcement.

However, planning for the event is well advanced, and a number of Winnipeg business people know the details. Free The Children is a network of children helping children, with its primary goals of freeing children from poverty and exploitation and dispelling the idea among youth they are powerless to change the world.

It was founded by the Kielburgers in 1995 after Craig Kielburger, at the age of 12, started a crusade to help child labourers after reading about the murder of Iqbal Masih, a 12-year-old Pakistani boy who, at the age of four, was sold into forced labour weaving carpets. Iqbal escaped from the carpet factory at age 10 and became an activist against child labour. He was murdered in 1995.

Craig Kielburger and a group known as the "12 twelve-year-olds" worked out of the Kielburger home in Thornhill, Ont., to raise awareness about child labour. They raised enough money from garage sales, coin drives and charity car washes to build a rural school in South Asia. Since then, Free the Children has grown into an international organization, with a network of more than one million youth involved in programs in 45 countries.

-- Staff, with The Canadian Press files

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2011 A2

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