I’ve been tracking this one particular charitable organization for a few years with personal interest. The WE movement, which was started by two brothers in their tween years, wanted to find ways to help those who can’t help themselves. As children, they were shunned by adults who would tell them they are just kids..they can’t help. Can’t. That fuelled Craig and Mark Kielburger to question “why and why not?” and they acted upon it.
Now, it has been over 20 years since they’ve started and their passion and message for empowering kids to make a difference in the world has become a global movement. Millions of people have paid attention. From the kid down the street to teachers and world leaders, even celebrities are interested in getting involved.
The organization has evolved over the years orchestrating several initiatives from inspiring kids to fundraisers at bake sales that allow trips to help build schools in impoverished areas. They’ve inspired organizations like Telus and RBC with initiatives that commit thousands, if not millions, to WE programs. They’ve organized city-to-city and country-to-country arena-packed events called WE Day that attracts thousands of students for a day filled with inspiring guest speakers and entertainment. Previous guests have included Al Gore, Selena Gomez, Martin Sheen, Chris Hadfield, Katie Couric, Henry Winkler, Imagine Dragons, and many more. The We Day stage has also included motivational speakers like Spencer West, a man who lost both of his legs as a result of a childhood disease and continues to remind kids and adults that there is no such thing as “can’t”.
But one fundamental lesson, and there are many, is that giving is a two way street. While helping others, we learn from the experiences in the communities being helped. Teens who have been on the volunteer trips abroad often return with stories of how they’ve seen first hand what it means when communities trust each other and work together. The thinking is, we all help each other in so many ways. If there’s one organization that can “move” our kids, this is it. It’s not about one particular charity or act of giving, it’s about empowering kids who want to do their part in this world to make it a better place in whatever capacity they can.
Last week, the organization’s ME to WE arm of the company hit a new milestone launching a new We Store with teen celebrity Bridget Mendler inside the high-traffic Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall. The shop is filled with items that are made with sustainability in mind. Items like jewellery made by Mamas in Kenya — where ME to WE CEO and founder of ME to WE Artisans Roxanne Joyal has worked closely with to ensure traditions of their culture and craft are cherished within fashionable pieces.
I’ve had many conversations with Roxanne and have met with a few of the mamas to get first hand stories about how this business model works for everyone. The Mamas get paid for their art and expertise while being paid to support their families. Each time an item is purchased part proceeds get filtered back to their communities. By the way, you can “track your impact” where your money goes as each piece has a unique online tracking code. Roxanne also visits various global open and local markets to source some unique textiles and beads to work into the products. While the majority of the line is priced at very affordable price points, there are also some coveted pieces that are in the Atelier line that I’ve found in the H Project shops at Holt Renfrew. Items are also available online.