Surrounded by enthralled students from Lord Byng secondary school, one would have thought from the enthusiastic welcome that you were in the presence of a celebrated and famous musician or athlete.
Celebrated and famous, yes. Athlete or musician, no. The man who so captured the rapt attention of the students on Monday, Nov 22 was Marc Keilburger, lawyer, Rhode Scholar, Member of the Order of Canada and co-founder of Free the Children a Canadian based charitable organization which bills itself as the largest organization in the world of children helping children.
Founded by Marc's younger brother Craig Keilburger in 1995 at the age of 12, Free the Children has evolved into one of the leading Canadian non governmental agencies which empowers children in Canada to take action to improve the lives of other children around the world..
At the Vancouver School Board Committee I meeting, Marc addressed the members of the committee and a group of Lord Byng students who are on their way to volunteer in Kenya in December, 2010. He thanked the district for its participation in We Day and its fund-raising efforts over the last few years.
According to the We Schools In Action 2009-2010 Final Report, students and teachers at Vancouver Schools raised $79,000 to support local charities and $124,500 to support global charities. These fund raising efforts are in addition to the many hours of volunteer service and other fund raising schemes which are not included in the report.
It was evident from the reaction of the Lord Byng students present at the meeting that their involvement with Free the Children has motivated them to make a difference in the world. The Vancouver School Board is immensely proud of all of our students who have given of their time and energy to help others.
The Vancouver School Board has been working with Free the Children since 2005. Initially, facilitators from Free the Children through its program Me to We conducted workshops for secondary students inspiring them to be a positive change in the world. In 2006, inspired by the works of the Keilburger brothers, the Vancouver District Students' Council, working with all 18 secondary schools, raised $18,000 which was donated to Free the Children to build a school in Sri Lanka.
Since then Free the Children has expanded its focus and established We Day, a day long spectacle featuring speakers and artists who are all relaying the same message: young people can make a positive change in the world. Vancouver students' first exposure to We Day came in 2009, when 2,500 of our students and teachers congregated in GM place to listen to the Dalai Lama, Dr. Jane Goodall, Mia Farrow and others.
This year, on Sep 15, 2010, 2,200 grade 7 - 12 students from 72 Vancouver schools joined 16,000 students from across the province to hear former Vice-President Al Gore, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Canadian hero Rick Hansen and others.
Their common message to students was don't succumb to apathy, be active, help the less fortunate children around the corner and around the globe. Following We Day, students and their teachers return to their schools and create a We Day action plan with details on how they will help less fortunate people either in the city or in a distant locale.
For more information on student initiatives go to the Vancouver District Student Council website.