Interview with MTV VJ and Free The Children Ambassador

Abigale Subdhan chats with Jessi Cruickshank at the second annual National Me to We Day.

A stadium filled with thousands of passionate, enthusiastic young people, and one philanthropic, benevolent celebrity after the other taking the stage to share their inspiring story or message—sounds pretty good, right? It was.  As Vervegirl’s official reporter at the second annual National Me to We Day, I got the chance to meet some of the major players behind the Me to We cause. Each person I spoke to opened up about  their experiences with Free The Children, and how becoming involved has changed their lives. It was incredible to see   such generosity and concern, such desire to take action and effect positive change in the world.

Jessi Cruickshank,
MTV VJ and Free The Children Ambassador.

How does it feel to be an ambassador for Free the Children and what are some of the things that you have been involved in as the ambassador?

I feel so honoured to have the opportunity to be an ambassador. When I was 13 years old I was a regular kid. I liked playing video games and watching TV and listening to music. And one day I saw this picture of a cute 13-year-old boy on the cover of a newspaper And there were rarely cute boys on the cover of a newspaper, so I figured I had to read this one.

The boy was Craig Kielburger. He was thirteen and he was giving this international press conference on the plight of child  workers in India. And I’m sitting there and I’m like, ‘I’m 13 and the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life is stand front row at the Backstreet Boys Concert’.

I had not accomplished anything at that point and it was that morning—- and I’ll never forget it—- that I realized that even at thirteen, I had the power to change the world. So ten years later, Craig called me up and, [knowing] I had been involved in Free the Children since I was thirteen, he asked if I would [become an] ambassador. I was so excited, as you can imagine because I had never even met him.

The first assignment was [a trip to] India. Which is a pretty huge first assignment. I had never been to that part of the world and I had never really gone to work in a place where people don’t have any of the luxuries that we are accustomed to. That was my first assignment with them and [I] shot it as a documentary for MTV. Now, I’m in their offices as often as I can be and today I am speaking for the second year in a row I am so excited to be here!

How was your experience in India?

It was not what I expected it to be. All of a sudden I was immersed in this world I didn’t know. There were cows on the streets and there were vendors ringing their bells and there were women walking around with water pots on their heads and the only thing that didn’t seem to belong, was me.

I felt like this complete foreigner, very out of place. I did not know how people would react to me. I was pretty uneasy when I first arrived especially because we were going into these rural farming communities where Free the Children had done their work. These people don‘t live in urban centres; they’re very much on the outskirts, so they don’t see tourists that often, especially not tall, pasty, freckly, redheaded tourists.

But I think one of the most amazing things that I have experienced was that I walked into these villages and, time after time, day after day, these people welcomed me into their communities, into their homes. They were so open, sharing with me how they lived on a daily basis, what the challenges that they faced were. They were so open to us, to Free the Children coming in and building schools, providing education for their children just excited about the prospect of change. I never expected that and I was overwhelmed.

It’s really exciting to be here today to share these experiences with young, motivated Canadians and hopefully it will inspire them to go off and do things that will make the world a better place.