Statement from WE Charity’s Kielburger Brothers On Closure in Canada

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WE Charity has closed down its Canadian operations after becoming entangled in a scandal involving the country's top politician.

"With the best interests of the children we serve in mind, we will wind down our Canadian operations, and sell all of our assets to establish an endowment fund to sustain the charity’s existing global humanitarian programs and digitize its Canadian educational resources," WE Charity co-founders Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger said in a statement (see full statement below).

The origins of WE Charity date back to 1995 when Craig, then 12-years-old, gained national media attention for spotlighting the story of Iqbal Masih, a child laborer who escaped slavery and was murdered for campaigning for children’s rights.

WE Charity (then called Free The Children) has since brought around 7000 schools and their students into its "WE service campaigns," supported around 3,000 charities, and had 1 million students attend "WE celebrations of service," according to the official website.

But the Kieburger's charity was stopped in its tracks after it was chosen to run the Canada Student Service Grant summer jobs program by the federal government.

It was then revealed that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's mother and brother had made paid appearances at WE Charity events, and federal finance minister Bill Morneau resigned after travel ties between his family and the private charity were uncovered.

"COVID-19 disrupted every aspect of our work. The fallout from the Canada Student Service Grant has placed us, as a charity, in the middle of political battles and misinformation that we are ill-equipped to fight. The financial math for the charity’s future is clear. Without decisive action WE Charity’s ongoing costs to operate in Canada would exceed revenue and consume savings that are essential to establish the endowment fund," the Kielburger brothers said in their statement.

"We calculate that this action preserves as many humanitarian and educational programs as possible, for as long as possible. Putting children first means prioritizing them above the charity," the added.

WE Charity will sell its Canadian headquarters and other assets to fund a proposed endowment fund with a mandate "to sustain our humanitarian and education programs for the long-term."

The endowment fund will also aim at the "continued operation" of ongoing WE Charity global projects.

"It is impossible to express the profound sense of regret that we have about all of this coming to a close; a feeling matched only by our immense gratitude to all who made the accomplishments possible. Our greatest thanks go to the hard-working student volunteers for the past 25 years of impact," the Kielburger brothers stated.

Read the full statement below:

WE Charity was founded 25 years ago in Canada with the dual mission of inspiring children at home to make a difference through service, and helping children around the world to escape extreme poverty.

With the best interests of the children we serve in mind, we will wind down our Canadian operations, and sell all of our assets to establish an endowment fund to sustain the charity’s existing global humanitarian programs and digitize its Canadian educational resources. 

COVID-19 disrupted every aspect of our work. The fallout from the Canada Student Service Grant has placed us, as a charity, in the middle of political battles and misinformation that we are ill-equipped to fight. 

The financial math for the charity’s future is clear. Without decisive action WE Charity’s ongoing costs to operate in Canada would exceed revenue and consume savings that are essential to establish the endowment fund. We calculate that this action preserves as many humanitarian and educational programs as possible, for as long as possible. Putting children first means prioritizing them above the charity.

This is a heartbreaking decision. WE Charity, one of the largest youth organizations, was built by 2,500 current and former staff, thousands of volunteers, and countless supporters. Our impacts include:

AROUND THE WORLD

  • 1,500 schoolrooms built educating 200,000 children
  • 30,000 women-led businesses launched
  • 1 million people received clean water
  • In Kenya, launched WE College 

CANADIAN IMPACTS

  • 7,000 schools engaged in WE service campaigns 
  • 1 million students attended WE Day celebrations after helping 3,000 charities 
  • In 1995, when WE Charity started, youth were the least likely demographic to volunteer in Canada. Today, they are and Baraka Hospital

WE Charity will sell its Global Learning Centre headquarters and other assets to fund a new endowment that will be managed by an independent board with a mandate to sustain our humanitarian and education programs for the long-term.

While no new school, health or water projects will be possible, the endowment will ensure the continued operation of WE Charity global projects currently in place. It will also ensure that a quarter century of curriculum, service campaigns, and youth mental health materials will remain available for Canadian educators and students at WE.org.

It is impossible to express the profound sense of regret that we have about all of this coming to a close; a feeling matched only by our immense gratitude to all who made the accomplishments possible.

Our greatest thanks go to the hard-working student volunteers for the past 25 years of impact. You can count on us to always support you on your journey. During these trying times in our world, we hope that you will continue to believe in goodness, act with empathy, have compassion for each other, give others the benefit of the doubt, and strive to be global citizens and shameless idealists.

Sincerely,

Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger
WE Charity Co-Founders

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