Good morning WE Day UK,
For those of you who were expecting Harry Styles here, I apologise and, no, I am not going to sing!
I feel extremely privileged, and incredibly nervous, to be standing here in front of you today at the first WE day to be held in the UK. Free The Children is a fantastic organisation, founded on an inspiring principal – that children have the power to effect change.
Every single one of you has done something amazing to be here today. It may not feel like it to you, but I can assure you that collectively, your actions can and will, shape the course of our future. After all, we all share this planet, so we must help and inspire others to do the same.
The world around us is changing fast. On one hand, it is a much more connected place. The internet is now part of our everyday lives, and social media has changed the way we communicate. What this means is that our generation, although I am nearly 30, has the greatest opportunity of any in our history to effect change on a global scale.
However, our society faces some very significant challenges. Each year approximately 100 million children are affected by disasters such as the Syrian crisis: 1 million children there have had to flee the country. Luckily, for most of us, it is unimaginable to picture leaving your home in the middle of the night, not knowing if you will ever return.
But closer to home, there are many communities in this country facing huge challenges which will rarely, if ever, hit the news. Many young people in the UK, live in households where domestic abuse, violence and addiction are part of everyday life. Others provide long-term care for a family member. These issues, and many others, can rob a child of their childhood. For these children, a little help could go so far.
And in this way, the biggest impact you can have, as an individual, is within your own community. Sometimes the smallest of things, like helping someone cross the road; to climb a flight of stairs or lift their shopping into a car, really does make a difference. It doesn’t cost anything, just a little bit of your time.
Often, without realising it, those we admire most are people who are committed to helping others: to giving their time freely to another; to volunteering like you guys. Every one of you here has inspired others by what you have done, and are doing, so please don’t stop.
If young people at risk can be identified early; then supported and mentored by someone who has grown up in the same community, or had similar life experiences, then it is possible to avoid them going on a downward spiral. The mentors I am talking about are not super-human: they are people like you and I who are willing to spend a little time helping someone else.
Every one of you here is already doing great things, like the hundreds of Diana Award winners or the pupils from St. Peter’s London Docks Primary School who are here. However, it’s important to encourage your friends to get involved as well. We all know how valuable the help and support of our friends can be. Multiply this what is going on today by thousands of times and you can see that by coming together you can change your communities and beyond. If each of you could get just one more friend to help someone else, you will have started changing the lives of 20,000 people.
Some people don’t think it’s cool to help others; personally I think it’s the coolest thing in the world!
My father launched the Step up to Serve campaign last year – he hopes that through this, and with the support of organisations like Free the Children, we can double of the number of volunteers in this country by 2020 – judging by the crowd in here today, I think we will be able to do it a lot sooner than that…
Congratulations, keep doing what you’re doing, and enjoy every bit of today!