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Seeing Craig Kielburger in a newspaper caught the eye of Jessi Cruickshank, right, as a 13-year-old and gave her the belief she could change the world. She’s now a TV host who has made documentaries with Free The Children and MTV.

How do people become involved with charities? Sometimes it's listening to a great guest speaker and sometimes it's seeing a cute boy on the front page of a newspaper. We talked to alumni of Me to We and Free The Children to find out what got them involved in the organizations, how it changed their lives and what they're doing now:

Dean Delia, Melbourne, Australia

How did you get involved with the organization and what did you do?

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I was a teacher who left for the not-for-profit sector to focus on youth leadership and self development. I moved to Canada in 2007 but with no real local professional networks and an interest in a very niche education segment. So I posted a cheesy video résumé on YouTube and would e-mail it along with my application for jobs, hoping that my accent would help get my foot in the door.

Me to We was the perfect fit. The culture, mission and approach to social change closely connected with my own beliefs, values and goals, so I applied for a youth facilitator role. I was offered a management role within Me to We leadership and went on to help develop programs, training and business development. I was heavily involved in the development of Me to We trip training and programming and was a team leader for several We Day events.

What did you learn from being involved in Free The Children and We Day that has served you well?

The biggest thing that still resonates with me, which was so obvious within the Free The Children and Me to We culture, is the importance of connection to mission. Being of complete service to others and having fun while doing it, that's the key to a fulfilled life-work relationship.

Bridget Arsenault, 29, London

How did you get involved with the organization and what did you do?

I got involved when I was in the eighth grade through an incredible teacher, Ms. [Laura] Brock, at the Halifax Grammar School. I was a youth member from age 12 and led a successful Free The Children chapter at my school until I graduated and I continued to support the organization at university and worked as a youth co-ordinator in the Toronto office the summer of 2004, 2005 and 2006. As a youth member we raised money and built a school in Nicaragua; I organized and hosted a global awareness conference, which was attended by high-school students all over the province; and we supported developing countries with school and health kits.

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What did you learn from being involved in Free The Children

Mostly that I could do anything if I just asked and I tried. I learned to put myself out there. I pushed myself to be comfortable public speaking and in front of large groups – at 12, I began speaking at our school assemblies, updating my classmates and teachers on our chapter's progress.

Jessi Cruickshank, former MTV host, Canadian media personality, host of Canada's Smartest Person and one of the first Canadian ambassadors for Free The Children

How did you get involved with Free The Children?

I was 13 years old and sitting at my kitchen table. My parents had the newspaper sitting on the table in the morning and I was never interested in anything except the comics or the entertainment section. One morning I saw a very cute boy on the cover of the paper. So I slid the paper over to see if he was a new pop star or a new Macaulay Culkin and I started reading the article and it turned out it was this boy my age who held a press conference to draw attention to the international crisis of child labour. Of course it was Craig Kielburger. It was that moment at my kitchen table for the first time I realized that as a 12-year-old kid I could be on the cover of a newspaper for doing something like that. I had the power to change the world, so in Grade 7 I started a little chapter at my school.

What did you learn from being involved in Free The Children?

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There are so many things you take away from it. When I have been in the communities [Ms. Cruickshank filmed a documentary with Free The Children and MTV about living with a Masai community], I really realized that ultimately happiness is not about what you have in your life but what you have to give. That really resonated with me. It's easy to get caught up in all the wrong values, and my work with Free The Children has never ceased to ground me in what's important.

Kyle Shuster, Ottawa, a student of philosophy and Spanish who is involved in Carleton University's Free The Children association

How did you get involved in Free The Children?

I was 15 years old when I got involved and was 16 when I went on a Me to We trip to Ecuador. The summer before I went on that trip, my parents decided not to do our typical vacation. Instead to we went to Alberta and volunteered at a First Nations reserve. I became intrigued about volunteering and wanted to explore that. A couple Me to We speakers came to our school and I was super-intrigued by what they said, so I went home and researched it. Within a week I was signed up for my first trip.

What did you do?

We volunteered in two different communities there [Ecuador]. We did leadership and cultural activities. We were laying the foundations for an elementary school. That involved laying rebar and digging dirt. In the second community we painted.

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Aislinn Paul, Toronto, actor best known for her role as Clare Edwards on Degrassi: The Next Generation

How did you get involved in Free The Children?

I got involved with Free The Children through Degrassi. A week after I joined the show, talk of a Me to We trip came up. [The cast] had done one the season before I joined the show and they were very excited about it. They asked if I wanted to join. I was just 14 when I joined the show and barely knew the kids who were a little older than me. It made me nervous but I still decided to go.

What did you learn from being involved in Free The Children?

I felt that I didn't have much to offer, but that's what Free The Children teaches. When you join them they show you that you're capable of making a difference no matter your age or size. That was the lesson I took back from my first trip to Ecuador.

Deepa Prashad, Toronto, a student of radio and television arts at Ryerson University who is involved in Ryerson's Free The Children association

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How did you get involved in Free The Children?

I was only 12 when I first started. I didn't really know about the organization until I started junior high. We had a speaker from Free The Children come into our school and they did a presentation. They talked about Craig Kielburger, who was only 12 when he founded [Free The Children]. I didn't know about any of these issues outside of my own little world. I started volunteering with them through my school's Me to We team.

What did you learn from being involved in Free The Children?

When I heard about the organization and Craig's story of how he started at such a young age and never let his passion die, that was my aha moment. Because before then, I didn't know what I could do, and he's been an inspiration to me for my entire life.

Sara Cousineau, a student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., who runs the Free The Children group at her school. She has been on a trip to Kenya and is finishing her degree in global studies

How did you get involved in Free The Children?

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I was in Grade 10. I'm from Muskoka [region in Ontario] and there was nothing there to really combat the issues of bullying, and I really wanted make a difference somehow. I went to one of my teachers and told her. A bunch of students and I sat down and created a group called Heroes in the Hallway. Free The Children came to us and invited us to We Day. I went and it changed my life. I sat there with 20,000 people and I realized I could make a difference in the world.

What did you learn from being involved in Free The Children?

It was the fact that I never thought I could change the world. I didn't think it could be me who could do these things. I was listening to Craig [Kielburger] and felt like suddenly it wasn't just idealistic for me to want to change the world.

Read the full Report on We Day here

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