When it comes to making the world a better place, there’s nothing holding Shawn Mendes back. Mendes may be just 23 years old, but he’s mature beyond his years and has his eyes on the future — both his future and that of this generation.
The young Canadian star, who has a social media following of more than 88 million users on Twitter and Instagram, is way more than a pop sensation. Though his long list of awards and accolades — including 13 SOCAN awards, 10 MTV Europe Music Awards, eight Juno Awards, eight iHeartRadio MMVAs, and two American Music Awards — is impressive, it’s his desire to give back that truly sets him apart.
And that energy will be on full display at Global Citizen Live, where Mendes will be performing in New York City on Sept. 25 as part of our campaign to defend the planet and defeat poverty.
Mendes first joined Global Citizen in 2018, performing in New York City’s Central Park alongside several of his famous peers, including The Weeknd, Janet Jackson, and Cardi B. In a rallying cry against extreme poverty, he thanked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for prioritizing girls’ education and encouraged his fans to take action on the same issue.
Since then, the singer-songwriter has continued to use his platform to raise awareness for the Global Citizen movement and inspire others to step up as champions of change. In 2020, during Global Citizen’s One World: Together At Home, Mendes appeared alongside Camila Cabello, urging Global Citizens around the world to stay safe and practice social distancing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mendes' philanthropic work runs deep.
Back in 2015, the “Treat You Better” singer launched a #BuildASchoolWithShawn campaign with the nonprofit Pencils of Promise, quickly exceeding his goal of raising $25,000. With the funds Mendes and his fans raised, Pencils of Promise was able to construct a formal school for children in Shia, Ghana.
Two years later, when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico in 2017, forcing Mendes to cancel a planned performance, the singer switched gears from prepping his setlist to responding to the disaster. He then donated $100,000 to relief efforts and teamed up with the Red Cross to raise additional funds to support survivors and aid efforts, Billboard reported.
In 2018, after multiple shootings occurred in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida, Mendes delivered an emotional performance at the Billboard Music Awards in tribute to victims of gun violence.
His message of hope and change has resonated with his fans, many of whom follow his generous spirit, using his birthday to fundraise for causes Mendes has shown support for — including reuniting immigrant families separated at the US-Mexico border — several times.
In 2019, the award-winning artist took matters into his own hands by launching his charitable foundation, called Shawn Mendes Foundation, to continue to use his influence for good in areas such as health care, the environment, bullying, and more.
That same year, he joined forces with Flow Alkaline Spring Water and the nonprofit Reverb to make his tour more eco-friendly, including offsetting carbon emissions, donating food to those in need, and opting for sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic bottles. As Flow’s sustainability ambassador, he incorporated environmental education programs at his shows, according to Elle Canada.
Mendes also drew attention to the climate crisis during one of his shows in São Paulo, Brazil, by sharing a message on one of his guitars that read “Climate Action Now.” The move, which was welcomed by activists and fans alike, is just one of Mendes' many ways to speak about and support global environmental issues.
"For a long time, I’ve wanted to find a way to amplify the causes that my fans and I care deeply about and to help make the voices of our generation heard," Mendes told TIME. "My goal in launching the foundation is to work alongside my fans and do everything I can to help provide them with a platform that inspires positive change and empowers young changemakers.”
At the time of the foundation’s launch, the artist made a generous donation of $175,000 to Sick Kids, a charity that serves children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. In 2020, the foundation teamed up with the Toronto International Film Festival to honour a changemaker tackling social issues with a prize of $10,000.
When he's not engaging in his charitable work, Mendes is still showing his support and love for others through his music, urging his fans not to be discouraged by the many challenges and tragedies they may witness in the world. Instead, he encourages them to keep taking action and approaching problems with a positive attitude.
“Waking up to headlines / Filled with devastation again / My heart is broken / But I keep going,” he sings on a track called “Youth,” from his eponymous album.
“You can’t take my youth away / this soul of mine will never break / as long as I wake up today / you can’t take my youth away,” the song’s chorus, a reminder to be resilient, goes.
“It’s about how that youthful thing where you look at the world like it’s a great place will never be stripped because of the horrible things [they] decide to do; it’s an I will always have the positive outlook type of thing,” Mendes told W Magazine in a 2018 interview.
In the lead-up to Global Citizen Live on Sept. 25, join Mendes in moving the world, one action at a time, here.
This article was originally published on Sept. 28, 2018, and has been updated.
You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign to defend the planet and defeat poverty by taking action here, and become part of a movement powered by citizens around the world who are taking action together with governments, corporations, and philanthropists to make change.