Students unite in support of helping youth across the globe gain their basic human rights.

 By Amy Van Es


It’s a common adage: Speak up for those who cannot speak themselves. But, in a world where every moment is drowned out by noise—music in our earbuds, friends gossiping, television in the background, social media feeds streaming—is it, in fact, more effective to stop talking? Would people take notice?

The vow of silence is a long-practiced tradition, but it wasn’t until the last hundred years that it’s been used as a medium for protest and social justice. From the thousands of civil rights activists who marched down the streets of Manhattan in 1917 without speaking a word to the commemorative demonstrations that took place in those same streets this past summer to mark the landmark protest, silence has long been used as a symbol for what shouldn’t need to be said: Everyone is equal.

This month, take part in the WE are Silent campaign with us to shine a light on the struggles of young people fighting for their basic human rights.

When you go silent, you are raising awareness by uniting with youth who need to be heard around the world. With the pledges you collect for every hour you remain silent, you’re raising funds for WE Villages—an international development model designed to break the cycle of poverty through holistic and sustainable solutions—and making a tangible impact in the lives of people across the globe in WE’s partner communities.

So, grab a couple friends/change-makers, and let’s get started!

Step 1: Choose your cause.

The first step to any successful social justice campaign is to educate yourself on the issues. Head to the library in your school or get on the web to research major issues you and your friends feel passionate about. For example, did you know that about 150 million children around the world are involved in child labour? Or that 1 in 9 girls in the developing world are married before they turn 15? Every child deserves to be heard—how will you stand up for their rights?

While your group will need to collectively decide on a single Pillar of Impact to fundraise for, each member of the group is able to individually choose the issue for which they will be going silent. Stand up for what you believe in during this campaign—make this stand your own. And don’t forget, you’ll want to prepare for what comes after the silence. The next time you use your voice, speak with the knowledge of someone who has educated themselves on the issue at hand. Speak up and raise awareness around your cause.

Step 2: Set goals.

Next, it’s time to set a few tangible goals. How long will you be silent for? How much money do you hope to raise? What sort of results do you want to effect in your school or community through the campaign? The answers to these questions will help you build an action plan, as well as provide a measure of success once you’ve finished the campaign, which will help you the next time around.

Now, let’s get moving on reaching these goals!

Step 3: Make a plan.

Now that you’ve listed all you want to accomplish, you’re going to need a plan to make it happen! There are a ton of little details to figure out, such as who is going to help spread the word of your fundraising efforts? Will social media be part of how you build awareness? Will you need an educator’s support to help on the campaign? Have a quick brainstorm about what would put your campaign over the top (in the best way possible!), and work together with your group to assign out roles and responsibilities.

Here are a few fun ideas to get participants excited and raise awareness around school:

  • Organize a “silence relay.” How? Schedule different classrooms to go silent for different periods throughout the day.
  • Try spreading awareness through a blackboard/whiteboard raid. How? Stay after school to write facts about your campaign’s central issue on the boards in every classroom the day before as an awareness launch.
  • When fundraising, get friends, family or local businesses to sponsor your advocacy efforts by putting up posters around your neighborhood.

Also, remember to take time during the planning stages to address any issues that could arise. After all, you won’t be able to talk during the campaign! For example, educators may not know why you won’t talk to them or answer a question in class. Perhaps you’ll prepare little cards ahead of time that explain you’re participating in the WE are Silent campaign, like the ones below.

Step 4: Reflect on the experience.

Reflect on your campaign by drawing or writing some of the highlights and challenges. What was your favorite part of the campaign? How did it feel to be unable to speak or stand up for yourself? How did your peers treat you differently?

Step 5: Report and celebrate!

Lastly, it’s time to celebrate! Share photos and stories of your actions with your school, community and, of course, with us. How many people participated? How many hours did you manage to go in silence? Did you meet your fundraising goal? Write your impact down and make sure your WE group leader gets in touch with our offices—we want to know all about your campaign.

Now let’s go raise awareness by lowering our voice!

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