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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Here's How One Charity is Exciting Youth to Make a Difference

Students collecting goods for WE Charity's WE Scare Hunger campaign.

This guest post was written by our friend Scott Baker, the Executive Director of WE Charity, an organization that has a found a unique approach to getting youth involved in their local, national, and global communities.

In a few weeks, streets across the nation will teem with superheroes and monsters. Don’t be surprised when some of the Black Panthers and Harry Potters who ring your doorbell ask for a tin of beans or a box of cereal as well as a chocolate bar.

Every year, youth across North America celebrate Halloween by taking part in the WE Scare Hunger campaign, collecting millions of pounds of food for their local food banks—adding canned goods to their candy haul.

WE Charity began more than 20 years ago as an international development organization, fighting child labor by tackling the underlying poverty that causes it. However, we also realized that, if you really want a better world, you also have to change attitudes here at home, too. The Dalai Lama once observed: “The greatest threat to our world is [that] we're raising a generation of passive bystanders.”


The challenges facing our world today—climate change, refugees, growing income inequality—won’t be fixed by non-profit organizations alone. We need to raise a whole generation that is not only aware of these issues but is taking action to address them every day. So we launched a suite of domestic programs like WE Schools and WE Day, and campaigns like WE Scare Hunger to create change in our own communities, as well as globally.

WE Schools provides free training and curriculum resources that enable educators to bring global issues into the classroom, and lead their students in taking practical action. Every issue comes with a tangible way to help. For example, science students study pollution in the context of the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, while learning how to test their local water supply.  

The feedback from teachers has been incredibly positive. “This program really encourages students to examine a variety of issues on both a local and global scale which is really important for youth to start experiencing at a young age,” says one teacher from Washington State.

When Mission Measurement, an organization that specializes in evaluating social impact, conducted an independent study of WE Schools, it found that youth who participated in the program were 7.7 times more likely to start a campaign to solve a social problem, and 2.7 times more likely to start their own social enterprise or non-profit organization, than their peers who were not part of the program. They were also twice as likely to volunteer at least once per week. And, when they come of age, these youth become engaged citizens, 30 percent more likely to vote consistently.

“WE Schools has been an amazing program that helps people give back to others and helps teens understand the importance of leadership and helping others,” says another Washington educator.

The Mission Measurement study also found significant quantifiable spin-off benefits for youth academic, personal and professional development. WE Schools youth are twice as likely to identify as strong leaders and feel confident as public speakers. Eighty-one percent of program alumni say it helped them identify their career goals. “On the academic side, kids are 30 percent more likely to be prepared to go to college than the average cohort,” testifies Jason Saul, founder of Mission Measurement.

“I learned a lot about communication and team-building—how to communicate effectively and to take my time when talking to someone,” reports one student from California.

WE Day is the academy awards of social change. Every year, over one million youth attend massive stadium-sized WE Day events in 17 cities across America, Canada, and the UK. They are uplifted by speeches from great national and international change makers like Martin Luther King III, Prince Harry, Kareem Abdul Jabaar, Malala Yousafzai, and Al Gore. And they are awakened to a host of issues and causes—bullying, mental health, child marriage, and urban violence, just to name a few.

“There are a lot of organizations that are aiming at impacting youth. The art of it is: what levers do you pull to produce those outcomes and how efficient are you in producing those outcomes? I think that is the hidden secret of [WE]. Everyone gets excited about WE Day speakers and celebrities, but it’s the low cost-per-outcome that is probably the most fascinating and compelling aspect,” says Jason Saul.

Perhaps the most important thing about WE Day is that you can’t buy a ticket. You earn your way in by performing one local and one global act of service—fundraising, volunteering, or collecting food. Their actions create massive social impact.

Last year, 220,000 youth in Washington State alone were involved in WE Schools and WE Day. They fundraised $469,374 for 401 local organizations and another $302,630 for 121 different global charities. These incredible young people gave more than 646,000 hours of volunteer service and collected more than 694,000 lbs of food for local food banks. 

The overall social impact in Washington was valued at more than $17.5 million. And that’s in just one state! 

In the world of WE, there are no bystanders. There is only the ever-growing movement of doers, unleashing a tsunami of positive change in their communities, and around the world.

Written by Scott Baker, Executive Director of WE Charity.

You can learn more about WE Charity, a 4-star charity, here.

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