Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Inspired by We Day Speakers & Volunteering

On October 8th, Sophia and I attended We Day in St. Paul, Minnesota. The only way that people were able to attend the event was by earning tickets...not by buying them.

The Kenyan Boys Choir at We Day.
They sang at President Obama's inauguration.

How did we earn the tickets? By doing a variety of service projects throughout the past year on a local and global level. As a family, we did a self-designed 12 in 12 project where we did 12 different service projects each month for 12 months in 2012.

Donating toys and household items at a secondhand store.
(May 2012.)

Also, throughout 2012 we collected books and monetary donations to ship over 1,000 books to a primary school in Lesotho where the first-ever library will be created for over 250 children annually. This will dramatically change these children's lives...moving them from poverty to a broader world and opportunities through education.

Olivia and Sophia with 20 boxes of books that
were shipped to Lesotho, Africa,
to establish a library at a primary school.
(December 2012)

So, what is We Day? The best description for the day is from We Day's website. It says, "We Day is an educational event and the movement of our time—a movement of young people leading local and global change. We Day is tied to the yearlong We Act program, which offers curricular resources, campaigns, and materials to help turn the day’s inspiration into sustained activation."

At the Xcel Energy Center, there were over 18,000 students and educators who were treated to a day-long event filled with inspiring speakers and performers.

Sophia with her bag of goodies 
that each attendee received.

We also learned about different organizations that make up We Day: Free The Children and Me to We, that have a shared goal to empower a generation to shift the world from ‘me’ to ‘we’—through how we act, how we give, the choices we make on what to buy and what to wear, the media we consume, and the experiences with which we choose to engage.

Through Free the Children, we were most interested in We Scare Hunger which aims to collect food for local food shelves on Halloween.

Donating food to food shelves is something that we did monthly in 2012, so it is a continuation of our efforts to help alleviate hunger in our community. What we learned - on a larger scale - is that in the United States:

=> 46.2 million Americans live in poverty.
=> 14.9% of households do not always have enough money to buy food.
=> Free or price-reduced lunches are provided to approximately 31.8 million children every school day.

On a global scale, we are particularly interested in the volunteer trip to Kenya through Me to We that gives youth and adults opportunities to build a school in a Maasai village.

Back to We Day...

One of the speakers we were privileged to listen to was Martin Luther King III. What an inspirational man! It was like listening to Martin Luther King, Jr. (his father) speak - with the same passion and excitement.

Martin Luther King III speaking at 
We Day in Minnesota on October 8, 2013.

Some of the things that I particularly liked that he said were:

=> It isn't by size that you win or fail. You just have to be the best of what you are. That's what our challenge is - being our best!

=> I am going to be a part of people who make a difference in my community, in my city, in my state, in my nation, and even in our world."

=> Every generation has its calling...You must decide what you want to do...to make a difference in the world.

Mia Farrow also spoke about volunteering and the impact it has had on her life as well as others.

Mia Farrow speaking to 18,000+ teens and educators.

Some of the things that stuck out for me that she said were:

=>Don't search for happiness, you won't find it that way. Search for someone to help and happiness will find you!

=> I realized I could make a difference outside of my family if I pushed hard enough; if I tried hard enough."

Marilyn Carlson Nelson, a successful business woman in Minnesota, introduced Queen Noor. Before doing that, however, she shared her family's and company's credo which she encouraged each person to remember as they go through life:

"Whatever you do, do with Integrity
Wherever you go, go as a Leader
Whomever you serve, serve with Caring.
Whenever you dream, dream with your All.
And never, ever give up."

Queen Noor of Jordan then came out; and she gave an insightful and thought-provoking talk about the the impact that war is having on children in Syria. She also spoke about the importance of education and peace.

Queen Noor of Jordan at
We Day Minnesota.

One of the things that stood out about her presentation was the statement:

=> "Peace exists in the hearts, minds, and actions of those who practice compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness."

The stories of Malala Yousafza and Iqbal Masih were shared. The former was heralded a hero because of her role in bringing awareness of the importance of education, especially to girls in third-world countries. As one of the We Day speakers, Hannah Alper, said, "Around the world there are millions of girls who are denied an education...but Malala [Yousafza] spoke up!"

Another speaker shared the story of Iqbal who was a child sold into child labor (essentially slavery) by his parents and who managed to escape. He said, "Children should have pens in their hands, not tools."

"Each and every one of you here today 
has a story with the power to change the world." 
~~ Spencer West, spoke at We Day Minnesota ~~ 
(A man who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro on his hands 
because he has no legs.)

We learned about youth who had been bullied because of physical disabilities and how they overcame that. One of the most memorable parts of We Day was Molly Burke's presentation. (She was a victim of bullying because she gradually lost her vision from age 4 to 14 when she no longer could see. Now, she speaks publically against bullying in the U.S. and Canada.)

She came onto the stage unassisted, so no one knew she had any challenges with her vision. She shared her story of being bullied, and then the lights were dim and she asked for silence for seven seconds.

Then, slowly, she said that there was something that she hadn't shared with us yet: "This darkness is my reality...I. Am. Blind."

She continued to say that, "I found my voice when I stood up against bullying." As the crowd cheered and clapped for her, she called for her guide dog who came up onto the stage and helped lead her safely down the steps and off the stage.

"Serve. Learn. Change the world."
 ~~ Julia Sewell ~~

One of the speakers (Marissa), who was raised by a single mother with four children and who held two jobs while going to college to give her family a better life, was from a very rough neighborhood. She received support through a community organization – homework help, listening, clothes, food, etc.

Marissa said, "Whatever projects are happening in your community, I urge you to get involved. You might end up changing someone's life." She continued, "You don't have to be rich & you don't have to be well-connected. You just have to give your time to someone who needs it."

Between these speakers and others as well as the many performers, it was perhaps one of the most inspiring events I have ever attended. It left both Sophia and I eager to continue to and expand upon our volunteering; and introduced us to opportunities that we had not heard about yet.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this upcoming year unfolds in terms of our service to our local, state, national, and global communities.

"Never stop believing in yourself." 
~~ Marilyn Carlson Nelson ~~

1 comment:

What Remains Now said...

What a wonderful opportunity. I so admire all you and the girls do to make the world a better place. So glad you had the chance to attend.