Ruby
 

Ruby Report: WE Day UK 2019

By: Dave Gunner

March 13, 2019

Perhaps the first idea that WE day was going to be huge came from tracking it on social media. In tweets and posts, you could follow schoolchildren from all over the UK as they made their way to the venue. Excitement was palpable. Rain or shine, they were in for a day like no other, and it didn’t disappoint. Special doesn’t come close to describing it.

More than anything, Wembley Arena is known as the setting for some historic events. On first thought, you may not think WE Day belongs alongside David Bowie, Pink Floyd or the Rolling Stones. Regardless, we believe there’s no more extraordinary day than WE Day. Onstage this year, great artists from the world of music and dance, along with royalty, heads of state and business leaders come together with young school age speakers with extraordinary stories to tell. Now in its sixth year, WE Day gathers together 12,000 schoolchildren, every one of whom has earned their place in the arena by making a difference.

“Keep empathy alive” The biggest cheer of the day went to Prince Harry (or probably the moment he brought Meghan onto the stage). He recognised this new generation and the challenges they face. It was moving, appropriate and meaningful, connecting with the sense of purpose and optimism in the room.

This year’s show kicked off with celebrity DJ collective The Marauders. The first thing that hits you is the noise. Twelve thousand pumped up kids with flashing wristbands really know how to get an atmosphere going: cheering, dancing, stamping their feet and waving flags . But there were also moments when you could hear a pin drop. And more than a few tears were shed. Among the joyous celebrations and uplifting stories, tough issues are addressed: knife crime, body image, the environment, gender equality to name a few. There are many tales of triumph over adversity, such as Isabelle Weal’s incredible story of overcoming having both arms and both legs amputated as a child. She went on to become a champion trampolinist. And introduced by Nicole Scherzinger was Nikki Christou, whose positivity turned a life-changing condition into millions of fans on YouTube.

“I shouldn’t change myself for others and neither should you”. Nikki Christou (with Nicole Scherzinger)

“I’m so proud of the partnership Virgin Atlantic has with WE. I have visited their international development projects, and they are remarkable. Their UK school-based programme is also a pioneering initiative where they are providing young people with skills to become social and environmental entrepreneurs.” - Richard Branson

Isabelle Weal: “My life was going to change, but it was my choice on how it was going to change, and I chose to change it for the better. Don’t take life obstacles as a setback, treat them as an opportunity”.

Our partnership with WE

We’ve been proud partners with WE since 2010 and this partnership has been more successful than we could ever have hoped for. In that time it has inspired our people, partners and customers to raise over £5 million for projects at home and overseas.

As well as WE Day UK we support the WE Schools programme, bringing active citizenship and leadership skills to young people across the UK, WE Schools and WE Villages, where we fund clean energy projects in poor, rural communities in India, Kenya and China. And every year we run a scholarship trip to our village in Rajasthan, India for 30 young people aged 12-18. On these trips they experience the culture, history and way of life in a vibrant and dynamic country, volunteering in a rural village to help build a school or a well and participate in interactive workshops to explore global issues.

Jaymey’s story

After attending WE Day as a student a couple of years ago, Jaymey McIvor won a place on our scholarship trip. Since then he has gone on to travel the world as one of our cabin crew. Jaymey was back at WE Day this year, but this time centre stage to talk about his experience and our relationship with WE.org. We caught up with him afterwards and asked him how the experience had been.

“It was incredible. I felt so proud to be part of a company that gives so much back to the communities across the world, including areas we don’t even fly to. The energy in the room was electric. I was so excited to share my story and I hope I was able to inspire some of the young people in the room.

Rebecca and Carly on stage

Jaymey

“The most inspiring bit for me was listening to the younger speakers, who already are making such incredible life decisions to better themselves and help others. It’s so powerful to think where these young people are going to be in ten years time. I’m proud that Virgin Atlantic helps to guide them on their journey to success.”

Joining Jaymey on stage were Rebecca Hoibak who spoke about being a female engineer and cabin crew Carly Navin. They picked out the winning school for this year’s scholarship trip. Meanwhile, across the arena, 100 volunteers from every area of our airline worked to ensure the event ran smoothly.

Baruani Ndume tells his incredibly moving story

One of the most emotional moments of the day came when Baruani Ndume got up to speak. A refugee from the conflict in the DRC, orphaned most horrifically, he has gone on to become an advocate for the rights of refugee children and won the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2009. Hear his story here

Music was supplied by Jack and Jack, Pixie Lott and Tom Walker. Liam Payne closed the show, and as the noise died down, 12,000 young people headed home, each a slightly different person with ideas and inspiration that will shape their thinking for a lifetime.

  • A very moving tribute to Iqbal Masih, a 12-year-old former child slave in Pakistan, who was murdered in 1995 because he spoke up for human rights. It was learning about Iqbal that prompted 12-year-old Craig Keilburger to take action and start the movement that became WE.org.

  • Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, summed up the day perfectly “ There's is nothing more powerful in this planet than a young person with a cause”.

  • The incredible Jack and Jack!

  • 12,000 children about to take on the world

  • The brilliant Tom Walker

  • Campaigner and stabbing victim Amani Simpson

  • Naomi Campbell

  • Hosts Connor Maynard, Pixie Lott, Tamara Smart and Dean Chaumoo

  • Debbie Weekes-Bernard became Deputy Mayor for Social Integration,

Every year at WE Day it might be the A-listers who get the biggest cheers, but it’s the stories from the ordinary people doing extraordinary things that you hear people talking about on the train home. There’s just no other day in the world that matches it.

We hope WE Day has sparked your passion for changing the world! If you’d like to get involved with WE, there are many ways to do so. Click here to learn about our WE Schools programme or here to learn about life-changing volunteer trips with WE.

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Dave Gunner

Dave is the co-editor of Ruby, the Virgin Atlantic Blog. He has worked at Virgin Atlantic for over two decades. In that time he has amassed some truly epic memories but never lost his fascination with the airline world. Dave's on a mission to bring you some great insights into our people, planes and planet.

Categories: Our Experience