Community Papers

Free The Children thanks Chilliwack

Spencer West talks to a group of students at Mt. Slesse middle school during the We Create Change tour on Monday.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Spencer West talks to a group of students at Mt. Slesse middle school during the We Create Change tour on Monday.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Chilliwack's We Create Change Tour was mini in every aspect except passion.

That was giant.

Several Chilliwack students started this week with front row seats to the We Create Change Tour on Monday at Mt. Slesse middle school.

The multimedia event, put on by Free The Children, was essentially a mini We Day celebration to thank Chilliwack's "We Schools" for their fundraising efforts throughout the year.

Mt. Slesse was one of 90 stops on the 10-week Canada-wide  tour.

Featuring performances by Canadian pop-rock band Neverest, and appearances by 11-year-old blogger and activist Hannah Alper, and double amputee Spencer West, the intimate affair was full of upbeat songs, giant selfies, motivational speeches, and inspirational slide shows.

One hour that few of the 600 watching would forget – all because they collectively joined forces this year to raise money for those most in need.

Dubbed Chilliwack's "We Schools," 13 schools spent the year collecting their pennies, and encouraging others to do the same, for Free The Children's build a school campaign. The goal was to raise $10,000, which would build a school large enough for 55 students in Africa.

In total, 10,908 was raised.

Several students from Mt. Slesse also travelled to Kenya over spring break and physically helped build a school with Free The Children.

"I think what's so cool here in Chilliwack is that they're known as the 'We Schools' and that they collectively came together to raise over $10,000 to build this school," said Spencer West, Free The Children inspirational speaker, following the show.

"It's not very often we see an entire district come together like that and create change as a whole. I think that's pretty powerful."

Chilliwack's We Schools began collaborating following last fall's We Day in Vancouver where every school in the province was challenged to join Free The Children's build a school campaign. For some schools in Chilliwack, though, the challenge of raising $10,000 solo was daunting. By collaborating with multiple schools, it meant the goal was attainable and that all schools that wanted to could be a part of the change.

They didn't do it for recognition, but rather because it was the right thing to do.

"All of our We Schools have students who are passionate about making change at the local and global level," said Mt. Slesse teacher Sandi Rae. "Today was all about their efforts."

Their goal was achieved, but their work isn't yet done.

One of the main purposes of the We Create Change tour was to recharge students to continue being the change.

West listed off staggering statistics: 57 million people are denied education every day; 123 million youth are illiterate; 76 million of those illiterate are girls.

While education is often taken for granted in North America, "there are so many kids, just like you guys, who want an opportunity to go to school, to learn to read and write," but have multiple barriers standing in their way, said West.

No stranger to barriers, West had both legs amputated below the pelvis at five years old due to a genetic disease. He was told he'd never sit up, never walk, and probably not be a functioning member of society. But he proved doctors wrong then, and he continues to do so.

He's become a renowned speaker for Free The Children; has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro; and walked 300 km with his hands from Edmonton to Calgary – all with the purpose of bettering the lives of those in need.

If he can do it, so can Chilliwack.

"This does not end today," Spee, lead singer of Neverest, announced to the cheering crowd before him. "Change continues on through your actions."

Chilliwack's We Schools included A.D. Rundle middle, Central elementary, Cheam elementary, Chilliwack middle, Chilliwack secondary, Greendale elementary, G.W. Graham middle-secondary, Mt. Slesse middle, Promontory elementary, Rosedale traditional, Sardis secondary, Tyson elementary, and Vedder middle.

For more information on the tour, visit the website www.freethechildren.com/wecreatechangetour.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.