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Singer Demi Lovato accepts the gift of a goat on her 21st birthday in Kenya with Free the Children. Joe Jonas fetches water from a river, just as women there do, in the Maasai Mara national reserve. (Scott Ramsay)
Singer Demi Lovato accepts the gift of a goat on her 21st birthday in Kenya with Free the Children. Joe Jonas fetches water from a river, just as women there do, in the Maasai Mara national reserve. (Scott Ramsay)

WE DAY

Demi Lovato’s journey of discovery Add to ...

Most people who just turned 21 don’t plan on writing their memoirs any time soon, especially as part of a multibook deal with Macmillan.

But then most 21-year-olds haven’t experienced the ups and downs of Demi Lovato.

“She was suicidal at the age of 7, has struggled with drug addiction and was a cutter. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” USA Today reported when news about the book deal and the November publication of her inspirational memoir, Staying Strong: 365 Days A Year, was announced last week.

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A list of the “downs” of Ms. Lovato’s life only makes the “ups” even more impressive and inspiring.

The book announcement was made the same week the new season of The X Factor kicked off, with Ms. Lovato returning as a judge.

That was shortly after the announcement that Ms. Lovato would be joining the cast of Glee as a lesbian love interest.

And it was soon after the Teen Choice Awards, where she presented and performed her hit song Heart Attack, for which she won the award for best single-female, along with awards for style icon and best female artist. She was also nominated for “female hottie.”

Her Heart Attack video also was named best international video at the MuchMusic Video Awards.

Those are just a few of the recent “ups” for the former Disney star whose career began as a child actor on Barney and Friends and continued in collaboration with the Jonas Brothers, touring with them and starring in Disney’s TV film Camp Rock.

But the biggest “up” in Ms. Lovato’s young, vivid life, she says, was the week she spent in Kenya celebrating her 21st birthday on Aug. 20 on a Me to We trip.

“Having the best birthday ever with Free the Children in Africa,” she informed her Twitter followers. “What an unreal birthday. Speechless.”

The next day she wrote, “This trip has been such an amazing experience. Yesterday was the best birthday of my entire life!!!”

A day later she added, “Btw... No big deal or anything but... One of Maasai communities gave me a GOAT for my birthday!!!!!! ...I named him billy.”

She’ll be sharing her experience with 20,000 people at We Day Toronto on Friday, performing Made in the USA and Skyscraper.

Ms. Lovato has already told at least 17 million people about her Me to We trip. That’s how many Twitter followers she has.

(Among her other “ups,” she was named celebrity Twitter user of the year and reached the No. 2 position this summer on Billboard magazine’s social 50 artists of the year, which ranks the most popular artists on YouTube, Vevo, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Wikipedia, Myspace and Instagram.)

Her tweets from Kenya suggest that she’ll be including many superlatives when she performs and refers to her trip at We Day.

“Just had the most amazing week of my entire life. Words and photos will never be able to describe how incredible this was.”

She says, about being in Kenya, “I’ve learned so much, especially getting to see everyone up close and personal in their own communities and seeing how hard they work. With Free the Children, I’ve been able to learn so much. It’s been such an amazing experience. Everyone here has been so welcoming. I adore the people here and I love this country.”

She learned what it was like to do a water walk, barefoot, in the Maasai Mara national preserve, carrying the water on her back with a strap around her head to help bear the load.

“It’s really, really heavy,” she said, with laboured breath, to the people accompanying her. “But it’s like I don’t even want to complain because I only have to do this once. These women have to do it five times a day.”

She insisted, while walking, “Don’t keep saying you’re impressed with me. You don’t need to say you’re impressed with me. I’m only doing this once.”

But she may do it all again soon.

On Aug. 31, she tweeted, “I feel like Kenya is my home away from home. ... I wanna go back ASAP!!!!”

One of her last tweets from Kenya: “Thank you so much Free the Children for solidifying the importance of my recovery and changing my life.”

The motivational value of these tweets and Ms. Lovato’s appearance at We Day in promoting Free the Children and Me to We is unsurpassed.

“The obvious value of celebrities like Demi is amplifying our message by using their platform,” explains Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free the Children. “These are people who have co-opted the power of social media to reach young people. It’s better than billboards.”

He adds, “We don’t do telemarketing or canvassing or gala dinners or pay for ads. We partner with young celebrity change-makers to use their platforms to engage the next generation.”

Mr. Kielburger notes that We Day is one of the world’s largest charitable causes on Facebook with more than 3.3 million fans.

Mr. Kielburger accompanied Ms. Lovato to Kenya and says, “We spent a week celebrating her birthday, working side by side building a school. She was the first celebrity [on a Me to We trip], how when we described the river walk [to get water], took off her shoes. She certainly threw herself into the experience in an extraordinary way.”

He emphasizes, “Someone like Demi Lovato, when she chooses to take a week and spend her 21st birthday with Me to We in Kenya, it’s truly priceless.

“And then when she chooses to share this with her community, this is the real deal, tweeting photos. It’s uninhibited, unfiltered, straight from the heart. It’s a very raw, very real connection for this generation with what is happening in the world.”

Mr. Kielburger’s praise and admiration for Ms. Lovato is mutual.

She tweeted on Aug. 31: “Btw – just throwing it out there ... My friend Craig Kielburger deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for how much he’s done in this world.”

Her message was retweeted 11,865 times.

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