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16,000 kids attend fourth We Day Manitoba gathering

This is the part of We Day no one ever sees -- the 22 children and four adults from Waywayseecappo First Nation rolling out of sleeping bags on the floor of Elim Chapel long before the sun comes up.

These kids are pumped.

They'd made the four-hour bus trip from Park West School Division Tuesday in your basic yellow school bus and all its attendant luxurious comforts, camped out on a gym floor and rubbed their bleary eyes before walking down Portage Avenue to the five-hour, unreal noise-and-lights assault on the senses that is the fourth We Day Manitoba.

Just one more group in bright yellow T-shirts amid a sea of 16,000 kids from 400 schools who'd earned the right to celebrate Free the Children's salute to social-justice activism with motivational speakers, teen-friendly, big-name musical talent and the ultra-enthusiastic Kielburger brothers, Marc and Craig.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/10/2014 (1062 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This is the part of We Day no one ever sees — the 22 children and four adults from Waywayseecappo First Nation rolling out of sleeping bags on the floor of Elim Chapel long before the sun comes up.

These kids are pumped.

Kassidy Bone (foreground) and Deevah Clearsky laugh as they walk along Portage Avenue on their way to MTS Centre for We Day.

MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Kassidy Bone (foreground) and Deevah Clearsky laugh as they walk along Portage Avenue on their way to MTS Centre for We Day. Purchase Photo Print

They'd made the four-hour bus trip from Park West School Division Tuesday in your basic yellow school bus and all its attendant luxurious comforts, camped out on a gym floor and rubbed their bleary eyes before walking down Portage Avenue to the five-hour, unreal noise-and-lights assault on the senses that is the fourth We Day Manitoba.

Just one more group in bright yellow T-shirts amid a sea of 16,000 kids from 400 schools who'd earned the right to celebrate Free the Children's salute to social-justice activism with motivational speakers, teen-friendly, big-name musical talent and the ultra-enthusiastic Kielburger brothers, Marc and Craig.

Understand, Waywayseecappo School is not upper-income, nor even middle-income, yet these kids are raising money to help educate children in Ghana. They make lunches for fellow students who don't have any, they honour elders, they promote recycling.

Embrace activism both locally and globally, add in good grades and no negative trips to see the principal, and they're in the house.

You can't buy a ticket to We Day, you earn your seat.

-

This was the fourth year Free the Children brought We Day here; 16,000 students celebrating their social activism and telling the world they'll persevere to change the planet.

Premier Greg Selinger had a special shout-out to the students who'd bussed from Mary Duncan School in The Pas, even farther away than Waywayseecappo. Mary Duncan School sustained a devastating fire recently, sending those students into temporary-but-more-than-a-little-while quarters.

"Together, we are rebuilding that school for these students and their community," said Selinger to the type of applause he undoubtedly wishes would greet him everywhere he goes these days.

The tone throughout the arena changed abruptly when Mary Robinson took the stage — the former president of Ireland and one-time United Nations high commissioner for human rights laid on the kids a report from an international panel on climate change coming out Sunday could doom millions to drown.

Unless, of course, the We Generation acts.

"If we don't take action soon, it will become irreversible," warned Robinson. "We are not good stewards of Mother Earth — the Earth is actually suffering pain from what we're doing. I want you to be empowered."

Robinson was soon followed by Dr. Dave Williams, Canadian medical doctor, astronaut and aquanaut.

"Science is cool," said Williams. "Without the Canadian contribution, we wouldn't have been able to build the space station. We rock; we are incredible."

Williams echoed Robinson, with a view from space few have had: "The Earth is really a very fragile planet," lamented Williams.

The Waywayseecappo kids had been listening intently.

Deevah Clearsky took Robinson to heart: "She was great, and it was very amazing. It's about believing," she said.

Emoni Cooke was one of several Waywayseecappo kids who perked up when they heard Williams had flunked his first try at getting into medical school. Really? That had happened?

"I like that he said it doesn't matter how many times you try, as long as you get in," Emoni said.

Echoed Hailey Tanner: "How he said it didn't matter he failed, that he made it."

And from Deevah: "Even if other people don't believe in you, you can try for yourself."

Teacher Julie Phillips was moved by hearing one in seven Manitoba children lives in poverty — tackling poverty was one reason the kids were at We Day.

"It resounds with me, because our kids are hungry. We are handing out over 90 lunches a month," she said.

Raising money to help educate kids in Ghana is especially meaningful for Brandon-born Deevah — her mother is a member of Waywayseecappo First Nation, her father is from Ghana.

She's been to Ghana: "I had a first-hand experience with all the poverty. There are child soldiers — they're being abducted to become child soldiers," she said.

"I'm looking forward to Nelson Mandela's grandson (motivational speaker Kweku Mandela). Nelson Mandela was a great person for our people, for getting us our rights," said Deevah.

Phillips said the 22 Grade 8 students underwent a gruelling process to qualify for We Day.

"They have to have approval from four or five sources," she said. Good grades, absolutely no trips to the principal's office for discipline issues.

In addition to raising money for education in Ghana, Phillips said, they buy food and pack lunches for kids who come to school without a lunch. "We handed out hundreds last year.

"We've done an elders lunch to honour the elders. We started a huge recycling program," she said.

Park West School Division provides a grant that allows each child to receive a book, Phillips said. "That's sometimes the first book they've ever owned."

Still barely awake at Elim Chapel, Tori Shingoose was eager to get to the arena. "Mostly, for the performers. Hedley, they're really good at music," she enthused before the sun came up.

"We raise money for education in Ghana. We have bake sales and sell bracelets," said Emoni.

"We have these rainbow bracelets. We make them," beamed Taleatha Whitehawk as she displayed her bracelet.

"We have to, like, keep our grades up, we can't get suspensions or write-ups," pointed out Susanna Procure.

Kassidy Bone liked the motivational speakers, notably Spencer West, the young man who climbed Mount Kilmanjaro despite being born with no legs, no lower body at all.

"I want to see them onstage," Kassidy said. "I've been good on my grades, I didn't get into trouble. We're going to do like this shoebox thing; we'll put toys in there for kids in Africa who don't have any."

Staying out of trouble, that was a major challenge he met in order to go to We Day, said Karlin Tanner: "There's a lot of people" who might try to move him from the path, he sighed.

-

As the Waywaysecappo children set off on the 10-block walk down Portage Avenue at 8 a.m., Phillips gave them their marching orders. "Your community wants you to be the best example. Be polite and respectful," she instructed. When listening to motivational speakers, "It's OK to cry. There's times I cry."

Somehow, the four adults kept 22 kids together through all the traffic lights and crowded sidewalks.

Some participants asked if they could give money to homeless people or even pass out some of the lunches the adults had packed Tuesday in Waywayseecappo.

"No talking to the homeless people — you can smile," said Phillips. "Be nice, but don't be, 'Come with us.' "

To the kids out there who want to be at next year's We Day: This morning would not be too early to start asking how they can work in their schools to improve their world.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Nick Martin.

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About 16,000 students attending the We Day event Wednesday light up the their cell phones at the MTS Centre.    (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press )
We Day 2014 at MTS Centre
Son Real performs at We Day Manitoba 2014.    (Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press)
Students at the We Day event Wednesday at the MTS Centre.  (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Kardinal Offishall performs to the 16,000 students at We Day. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Canadian astronaut Dr. Dave Williams speaks at We Day on Wednesday. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Mary Robinson former President of Ireland speaks at We Day Wednesday. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Me to We motivational speaker Spencer West speaks to the 16,000 students attending the WE Day event in the MTS Centre Wednesday.  (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
A Canadian flag is passed around the MTS Centre by Manitoba students at the We Day event. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Graffiti Arts perform the We Day Dance for the Manitoba students attending the event. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Premier Greg Selinger speaks at the We Day event Wednesday. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Host Scott Willats introduces Juliet and Faith, students from the Kisaruni Girls School in Kenya at the WE Day Event in the MTS Centre Wednesday. Nick Martin  story. Wayne Glowacki/Winnipeg Free Press Oct.29   2014
Hedley, award-winning recording artists and Free the Children ambassadors, perform at the We Day event in the MTS Centre Wednesday.  (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press )
Leaders performing the We Day Dance. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press )
Inspirational speaker Hannah Alper,11, with recording artist Shawn Desman (right) at the We Day event. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press )
Kweku Mandela, social advocate, filmmaker and grandson of Nelson Mandela, speaks to students at the We Day event. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press )
Craig (left) and Marc Kielburger near the end of the We Day event in the MTS Centre Wednesday. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press )
History

Updated on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 10:11 AM CDT: Adds video

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