J. Clarke Richardson students involved in “Cultures of Richardson (COR)”, “Students Without Borders” and the social sciences had the opportunity to visit Queens University in Kingston on Saturday February 4th in order to participate in the second annual Model WE Day. Queen’s “Free The Children,” or FTC, is a social activist group moderated by Queens University students. One of them is a former J. Clarke Richardson student, Romaisa Pervez, who worked diligently to invite our school to the event.
Staff members Ms Kanavalli and Ms Pearson of COR organized the event and invited Students Without Borders, students in social sciences and Eye on The Storm to accompany them on the trip to Kingston.
Students arrived at school on Saturday at 5:30AM and boarded a coach bus. When they arrived at Queens, breakfast was provided before students were guided towards a lecture hall. There, Queen’s Principal Woolf addressed the delegates before introducing the first speaker.
WE is a movement that was originally called “Free The Children”, a group of 12 twelve-year-old boys were the first members, but it was brothers turned co-founders Mark and Craig Kielburger who founded the movement. Craig Kielburger was reading a newspaper during breakfast when he read the story of Iqbal Masih, a 12-year-old, former child slave in Pakistan who had escaped his captors and fought publicly against them. Iqbal was murdered. Craig asked Mark to assist him in founding “Free The Children” with Craig’s 7th-grade class and it has now grown into WE.
“This conference really helped me understand and opened my eyes.”
~Dharna Rami, Grade 12 student
Students had the opportunity to listen to speakers and take part in activism workshops. Speakers included Molly Burke, a young woman who at the age of four was told that she had Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare disease that causes blindness. Molly discussed what it meant for students to stand up for themselves and for others and she taught students the realities of depression and the stigma that surrounds it.
Abel Bosum, the chief of the Cree Nation in Quebec, shared with WE Day Delegates the horrors of Canadian residential schools. He described how he was taken from his home when he was five years old and he also discussed how he was mistreated and how others were abused. Currently, Abel still fights for Indigenous rights such as basic water and sanitation facilities.
Jamie Forget is an elementary school teacher who had the opportunity to interview Iraqi, Syrian, Sudanese and Somali refugees for resettlement in Canada. Jamie visited Amman, Jordan and eventually helped a man named Khater get into the country. Jamie told students how they can make a difference. She quoted Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
Finally, Richardson students got the chance to listen to Marc Kielburger, the co-founder of the WE Charity. Kielburger discussed how WE started and how easily students can get involved with social justice. WE provides curriculums to schools to educate students on social justice and Marc detailed stories of hope and teamwork to all delegates at Queens.
Students were led to many workshops throughout the day. These workshops involved learning how to create an “Action Plan.” Students were also taught about setting goals in order to efficiently create change while identifying barriers within society.
Eye on The Storm asked Aeda Bhagaloo and Sarah Sylvester, both Grade 12 students at our school, what they “took away” from the event.
Aeda: “My major takeaway was getting first-hand documents of residential schools”
Sarah: “My major takeaway was the stigma surrounding mental illness and how dangerous it is to youth and the community we live in, and the large impact we have of doing small things in the community”
Dharna Rami, another Grade 12 student, had this to say: “Mental awareness is something our school doesn’t talk about and that I didn’t talk about, but this conference really helped me understand and opened my eyes to this issue so we can do something about it”
WE hosts many movements. They build villages in other countries and they fight for freedom and equality not only locally, but worldwide. What WE is most known for are their WE Day events where thousands of activists celebrate and listen to speeches from other activists.
More info can be found here.