Free The Children Announces Landmark Gift to Establish a Global Learning Centre to Provide Millions of Young Canadians With Service Learning Opportunities

- Thanks to the generous support of Hartley Richardson, the Richardson Foundation and David Aisenstat, the Global Learning Centre will empower a generation of young Canadians to make a difference in their local and global communities

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- Watch a video message from Hartley Richardson and David Aisenstat at

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Oct. 28, 2015) -

Note to editors: A photo for this release will be available on the Canadian Press picture wire via Marketwired.

Celebrating 20 years of empowering young Canadians to make a difference locally and globally, Free The Children is excited to announce a landmark gift that will transform the charity's ability to engage young people and schools in service-learning programs.

The establishment of the Global Learning Centre will transform service-learning opportunities for millions of students coast-to-coast, enhancing their skills and knowledge to create positive change in their local and global communities. The Centre's state-of-the-art technology will connect schools throughout Canada, including those in rural and First Nations communities, allowing them to meaningfully engage in leadership development programs.

Tens of thousands of teachers will have the opportunity to access Free The Children's free curriculum-based resources, award-winning educational programming and a team of experts in youth leadership development. Free The Children's Global Learning Centre will feature initiatives including leadership training, STEM-based service-learning activities and the creation of educational content for schools on timely social issues.

The brand new Centre will be located at 339 Queen Street East in Toronto's historic Corktown neighbourhood. The $15-million commitment to create the Global Learning Centre was realized through a targeted donation from long-term supporters of Free The Children and Founding Chairs of WE Day: Hartley Richardson, President & CEO of James Richardson and Sons, David Aisenstat, President & CEO of the Keg Steakhouse & Bar; with generous support from the Richardson Foundation.

"In Free The Children, Craig and Marc Kielburger have created a world-class organization that has established itself as world leader in empowering young people to make their local and global communities a better place. I have seen this impact in young people from across Canada and I have seen this same impact firsthand in the young people in my own life. I am proud to help Free The Children achieve its dream of engaging millions of students from thousands of schools to make our country and our world a better place," said David Aisenstat, President & CEO, The Keg Steakhouse & Bar.

The Global Learning Centre will serve two key functions. The Centre will become the global headquarters of Free The Children, where staff will administer educational programming supporting WE Schools and WE Day efforts, connect with schools to support their service-learning efforts, develop world-class service-based curriculum, and facilitate the back-end operations to support the organization's growth. Secondly, it will act as a hub where students from around the world can access the tools and support they need to create social change. Not only will this be a space that will welcome students from across the Greater Toronto Area and Canada, but it will also be an international home base for youth empowerment with the capacity to bring students together both physically and through technology to catalyze social change.

This idea began as the vision of Hartley Richardson, who believed that the leading Canadian institute for service learning should have a solid foundation to spur further innovation. He approached his friend and fellow Free The Children supporter David Aisenstat, and the idea for the Global Learning Centre was born.

"The impact this will have on students, educators and families throughout Canada - from educators in Ontario to students in my home province of Manitoba, to young change-makers up in the Yukon territories - excites me, and I am very pleased to be able to invest in this innovative Centre and help it come to life," said Hartley Richardson, President & CEO of James Richardson and Sons. "Free The Children's model has proven to play a significant role in inspiring and developing young social entrepreneurs."

"We are so grateful for leaders like Hartley and David who believe in the ability young people have to create and lead meaningful change through service-learning opportunities," said Free The Children Executive Director Scott Baker. "The Global Learning Centre marks a major milestone in our 20-year history of empowering young people to become active agents of change. As we look towards our next phase of phase of development, we are excited to have the support needed to further invest in service-based learning programs to ensure youth develop the 21st century skills they need to succeed academically, in the work force and as active citizens."

Working with over 5,800 schools across Canada, Free The Children is Canada's largest youth empowerment organization and a leader in service-based learning. The organization engages more than 200,000 youth through 14 WE Day events held annually across North America and the U.K., and millions more through its complementing yearlong program, WE Schools, which provides hands-on, student-led campaigns designed to enhance a school's existing social initiatives or to spark new ones.

Unique features of the Global Learning Centre will also include:

  • Dedicated Learning Centre: opportunity for Free The Children to host large groups of students during the day and offer speeches and workshops that inspire deepened involvement in the local and global community.

  • Global Classrooms: a number of interactive Global Classrooms (including audio/visual components) that will allow speakers and Educational Programming Coordinators from the Free The Children team to deliver compelling virtual experiences to schools. Virtual Skype sessions will allow the organization to remove the barrier of geography and reach schools that otherwise would not be able to receive an in-person touch point with Free The Children. This includes schools located outside of a WE Day region as well as remote areas across North America.

  • Incubation Hub: a dedicated space (including desks and office materials) for small start-up organizations as they build their foundation. This incubation hub will provide non-profits/social enterprises with a unique foundation for support, unparalleled access to resources, and potential mentorship opportunities.

"I've had the privilege of visiting schools and seeing the work of Free The Children firsthand. I've talked to so many teachers and students who participate in WE Schools programming, and I know the incredible power this service-learning model has to inspire young people to lead with conviction and compassion," said Gerry Connelly, former Director of Education, Toronto District School Board. "Free The Children's Global Learning Centre represents an unparalleled opportunity for the educational community to revolutionize service learning in North America."

Free The Children would like to thank its board members who have guided the organization along this journey, as well as the real estate experts, engineers and consultants who have donated their time. The organization is also grateful for the assistance of Tri-Axis and the generous financial contribution made by Downing Street, which helped to bring this project to life.

About Free The Children

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Angie Gurley
Global Head, Public Relations and Publicity

Hartley Richardson, President & CEO of James Richardson and Sons (from left to right), David Aisenstat, President and CEO, The Keg Steakhouse and Bar, and Marc Kielburger, co-founder of Free The Children, walk together in the future home of the Global Learning Centre, Tuesday, October 27, 2015, in Toronto.  The facility will transform service-learning opportunities for millions of students in Canada and around the world. The Canadian Press Images PHOTO/Free The Children