March 12, 2020
WE Day UK is the annual celebration of all the excellent work undertaken by our charity partner WE.org. You can’t buy a ticket for WE Day – you have to earn it, and every one of the attendees has done something for a good cause. These are the changemakers of the future and for many of the people who attend it’s a life-changing event. This is how this year’s event unfolded.
For one day a year, the SSE Arena in North London takes a day off from being a legendary music venue. On this special day, it’s host to something even more out of the ordinary, and probably a lot louder. WE Day UK is a coming together of 12,000 school children and their teachers, all of whom have made a difference. It’s a day when stories are shared and social good recognised. It also lights a fire in so many young people, who go on to make a difference both in their local community and around the world.
WE.org is our charity partner, and we’re proud to play a part in WE Day. Every year we send along a hundred of our people as volunteers to make the day run smoothly. They also get to hear the inspirational talks and performances from headline acts.
The A-list superstars this year included Idris Elba, Lewis Hamilton, Jamie Oliver and Leona Lewis. You can read the full line up here.
But ask most WE Day attendees what left the biggest impression, and you’ll find it’s not usually the famous names, but the everyday people with extraordinary stories to share, and the students chosen because of their volunteering work.
We caught up with two of our own volunteers. Sorcha Didier is one of our cadet pilots, who went on stage with three of the pupils from our Passport to Change programme.
“WE day was electric,” she said. “Standing among thousands of hopeful and positive young people, you couldn’t help but feel energised, uplifted and excited about the future. These school children brought so much warmth to the arena that by the time I uttered the first words of my speech, my nerves gave way to genuine excitement. I left the arena thinking we need to lift, support and fight for these inspiring young people to make the changes we need to see in the world.”
Watching Sorcha in the audience was Ash Lamming from our airport operations team. We caught up with Ash to see what she made of the day.
What was the atmosphere like in the arena?
There was so much energy in the arena it gave me goosebumps. Everyone was there for one specific reason – because they were passionate about making a change in the world. So it was hardly surprising they were so excited to hear not only from some fantastic speakers but from each other, to learn what they had achieved in their communities.
Did any of the acts surprise you?
Didn’t think I could answer this one, but then I loved hearing from Julie Gillard, the former Australian prime minister and Sophie Trudeau, campaigner and wife of current Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. Their passion for empowering women, and for our men and boys to support women and girls in reaching and achieving their dreams and goals, was extremely powerful. I also loved Callum Scott and his and Leona Lewis’ duet. Shamazing!
Which speech did you find the most inspirational?That’s a tough one to answer as there were a lot, and I’m not sure I can choose just one
Maya Ghazal, a Syrian refugee who is now an Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, was truly inspirational with her story of self-belief. She wanted to be a pilot but being female, Muslim and a refugee meant she met much resistance. But her world changed when she began to believe in herself and realised that her differences were what made her who she is. She didn’t ‘fit in’, but she realised she didn’t want to fit in – she wanted to stand out. She did not let others define who she is or what she should be and has become Syria’s first female refugee pilot, having now taken her first solo flight on her journey to becoming a commercial pilot. The sky is not the limit; there are no limits!
I also loved hearing from Alexandra Adams, who shared her journey to become the first deaf, blind doctor in the UK. Wow! She has fought prejudice and discrimination to get to her final year of medical school. And this prejudice and discrimination has made her more determined to succeed and be the kind of doctor who is able to see the patient as a real person and make sure they’re OK; in the same way she was asked if she was OK when she was in hospital in her late teens undergoing multiple stomach surgeries. An amazing woman with true self-belief and determination not to be defined by others.
And what an incredible bunch the guys from Carney’s Community were and are. Through boxing discipline and training, and mentoring, they are turning young lives around, improving not only individuals’ lives but that of the community in which they live.
They look past the labels given to disadvantaged young people and see the person behind, giving them a safe place to be, a mentor that will listen and guide them, and help to gain discipline, skills and self-respect. Their community constantly gives back, as many of the mentors were once themselves mentored by Carney’s Community, and so the circle completes – helping people to be the best they can be. And to demonstrate this at its best,
Tyler and Sidali helped by Carney’s have set up their own decorating business to help give back to the community. Called Good Guys Decorating, they take a percentage of their profits every month and use it to decorate the bedroom of a child living in poverty, or someone with mental health issues. Now that’s what I call Good Guys!
Why do you think WE is the right fit for Virgin Atlantic?
We make a great partnership because we have the same passions and goals, and want to improve the lives of people in the locations that we fly to. We care about our communities, and partnering with others who have complementary experience and skills can only be a good thing in our quest to empower communities and young people. And we can always achieve so much more with friends!
What made you go aww!
Just how tiny some of the kids on stage were, and how being up on that stage in front of a packed Wembley Arena must have felt. But despite being so tiny, you could sense their enormous energy, effort and commitment. And I felt especially proud of the kids from Thomas Bennett and Pentrehafod and Luther J Price schools who came up on stage to talk about their participation in the P2C programme… a definite awwww moment.
If you could take one learning away from today, what would it be?
A reminder that you should never underestimate the strength and ambition of our younger generation.
All year our customers are incredibly generous with our onboard collections, and our people are always fundraising. WE Day is where you can see the results of all that hard work and generosity. Anybody who goes along to WE Day returns with a fresh perspective on life. It’s uplifting, positive and optimistic. And we all need some of that in our lives.
WE Day is held in over 15 cities across the UK, U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.