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Joe Jonas sings praises of hands-on experience

On a site visit to Africa, pop star Joe Jonas learns first-hand what the women in the Maasai Mara national reserve go through to fetch water for their families.

Anyone attending We Day Toronto on Friday better be prepared to be blown away by the energy, excitement and passion.

Joe Jonas certainly is. The pop star, one of the high-profile Jonas Brothers, knows what it takes to rock a place such as the Air Canada Centre. He's performed for crowds all over the world.

But Mr. Jonas has been to We Day before and so he knows it's like nothing else.

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"It's incredible to be in a room with all these young people who have done something in their community," he says. "It just blows me away."

The young people and their teachers (20,000 altogether) are also going to be blown away – by the electricity charging the arena and the star power on stage, including the Jonas Brothers.

The pop rock band – they really are brothers; Joe, 24, is the middle of the three; Kevin, 25, the eldest; Nick, 20, the youngest – came to fame in 2008, starring with Demi Lovato in Disney's Camp Rock TV movie and its sequel.

That same year, the Brothers were nominated as a group for the Grammy award for best new artist.

And the year after, they were surprise guests at We Day Toronto.

The Jonas Brothers have made a significant commitment to raising awareness for causes they believe are important.

Nick uses his platform to bring attention to Type 1 diabetes and help young people manage their disease. He was diagnosed with the disease at 13.

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Joe has chosen to make Free the Children – especially supporting education in Africa – a priority in his life.

"This is a cause I've been able to work with hands-on," he explains, "and it's a great organization and great people to work with. Working with them in Africa is fantastic. They're doing incredible stuff: building communities, schools, water."

He's also in tune with the philosophy of Free the Children and the absence of any slant, politics or otherwise.

"People come and participate and then they leave," he says appreciatively. "There's no other agenda involved."

Mr. Jonas' dedication to Free the Children has evolved from performing with his group at We Day Toronto in 2009 and playing host to the event in 2011 to travelling to Kenya for eight days in July on a Me to We trip and promoting Free the Children's Year of Education.

He's inviting fans to help him raise $20,000 to build two schools or school rooms in Free the Children communities in Kenya.

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"I'm Joe Jonas and I need your help," he says on the Free the Children website (, which asks, "Did a celebrity send you here? Click here."

Just as We Day inspires and encourages young people to make change through social action, so do Me to We trips inspire volunteers such as Mr. Jonas to stay connected to the countries they've visited and to encourage others to participate in Free the Children initiatives.

He suggested to Ms. Lovato, a former girlfriend and sometimes singing and acting partner, that she travel to Kenya with Me to We to celebrate her 21st birthday there last month.

"She had a great time," he says.

Just as Ms. Lovato did, Mr. Jonas went on a river walk in the Maasai Mara national reserve to fetch water.

"It's pretty intense," he recalls. "I have a lot of respect for these women who do it five or six times a day. And it's a realization of how water is really important. The most amazing thing for me is that there's always something to take back from the trip."

Mr. Jonas says he also realized "how much needs to be done. And if I can encourage my fans to donate or raise money, I feel rewarded."

Still, he insists, there's nothing like being on the ground in Kenya, helping to build a school with his own hands.

"I love going on these trips and travelling to Africa," he says. "More and more, I'm using my platform to encourage other people to go on Me to We trips. I never want to throw it in people's faces, but it's easier than it looks and it's great to be part of it all."

He adds, wistfully, "I'd love to go back next summer or the summer after."

In the meantime, he'll do everything he can to support Free The Children and shine a spotlight on Me to We.

He's even willing to be the We Day host again some time, although he acknowledges, "It's a lot of pressure."

This year, he wants to tell the young people and their teachers attending We Day, "to go, if you can, on one of these Me to We trips."

He also has something else to say to the people who earned their way to the event with hard work. "I'd say, 'Thank you.'"

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