Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Craig Kielburger - Founder of Free The Children

My middle children are eleven and twelve years old. My daughter reads constantly, loves video and computer games and longs to be president of the United States (after she's had a sucessful career as a chef). My son takes martial arts, loves to draw and watch the Food Network. They are both incredibly sensitive people but can I see them spearheading efforts to save poverty stricken children from around the world? Or calling their national leaders to suggest humanitarian strategies? Umm, no. Then, maybe I should look deeper before I decide.

In 1995, that's exactly what twelve year old Craig Kielburger of Ontario, Canada did. Craig stumbled on an article about a young boy named Iqbal from Pakastain who'd been forced to weave rugs to pay back a family debt and was later murdered for speaking out about his mistreatment. At that moment, Craig discovered the horrors of child labor and slavery. For the first time he compared his life as a middle-class child in Canada to a boy his same age in a third world country. The contrast was shocking and moved Craig toward his mission to save children from workcamps, prostitution, and drug running.

Fast forward to 2007 and Craig Kielburger can be found running Free The Children, the world's largest network of children helping children through education. Free The Children has a unique youth-driven approach. More than one million young people have been involved in their innovative programs all over the world. Free The Children has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. They have established partnerships with the United Nations and Oprah's Angel Network.

The offices of Free The Children are run by a handful of volunteers, the bulk of the networking, grassroots fund raising and project planning is done by young people from all walks of life. In a 1999 interview Craig said, "Adults find taking action on large issues like child labor a lot scarier than we do," he says, "because they're more entrenched in their thinking. They say things like: 'Oh, I can't do that. I have a job and a family'. But young people haven't become conditioned to think in a little box; we don't even know a box exists."

Craig also founded Leaders Today, a world renowned leardership organization training young people how to "Take Action" and "Be the Change".

Craig Kielburger is an inspiration and a gift to this world. I'm sure he's made his mother proud and he's caused me to look at my children with different eyes. I have an obligation to nuture their dreams, realize the worth of their contributions, and support them in their vision of the future.

To learn more about Free The Children and Leaders Today or start your own youth action group visit

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