BRAVE PERSONE, BUONE AZIONI
 
Free the Children: Changing the World One Child at a Time - P1/2   
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HOST: Amiable viewers, welcome to Good People, Good Works. Today we are delighted to introduce Free the Children, a wonderful charity founded in 1995 by two Canadian brothers, Craig and Marc Kielburger that is dedicated to uplifting disadvantaged youth in developing nations through education.


It all started when Craig, only 12 years old at the time, came across an article in a Canadian newspaper. The story was about the sad passing of Iqbal Masih [pronounced Ick-ball Ma-sih (‘i’ like sit)] , also 12, who escaped forced child labor at age nine and went on to became a leader of a campaign to end this abhorrent practice.

Craig was moved to the depths of his heart and truly felt that he had to do something to help the vulnerable children of the world.

The next morning, Craig went to school and asked his classmates if any of them wished to join him in carrying on Iqbal’s mission. Eleven students immediately raised their hands and Free the Children was born.


Craig (m): My friends and I have started an organization called Free the Children, a youth group mainly made up of young people, between 10 and 16 years of age. And the purpose of our group is not only to free children from exploitation and abuse, but also to free children from the idea that they are powerless, and that they have no role to play in today’s society.

HOST: To see how he and the others could best aid those who Iqbal sought to protect, Craig decided to go and meet face-to-face with child laborers in different South Asian nations.  


When Craig Kielburger was only twelve, he decided to take a seven week trip to South Asia. It was a journey that would have important consequences for the rest of his life.


Craig (m): Over the past year I’ve had the opportunity to travel through five countries in South Asia and I’ve met many children who are suffering, children who are living on the streets of some of the world’s largest cities. I’ve met children sold as bonded laborers working 12 to 16 hours a day in the carpet industry. These children have no vote, no voice, and no political clout. Many of them are subjected to some of the most inhuman forms of exploitation.


Craig (m): I certainly knew nothing about the world, in which millions of children my age work long hours in conditions approaching slavery each day. And my question is, “Are all children created equal? And if child labor is wrong for a white middle class child in North America, then why is it any different for a girl in Thailand or born in Brazil?”

HOST: While in South Asia, Craig met with then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who also happened to be in the region at the time, to discuss child labor. After returning to Canada, Craig, his brother Marc, and the Free the Children team started visiting schools and churches and contacting prominent political and business leaders to raise awareness of global child inequality.

Through the unwavering dedication of its volunteers, Free the Children has become one of the world’s largest networks of children helping children. It has evolved from a small office in Craig’s living room into an international development and youth empowerment organization that has brought constructive changes to the lives of tens of thousands of underprivileged youngsters.

With the efforts of 3,500 Youth In Action groups in the United States and Canada, Free the Children has built more than 500 schools throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. Now more than 55,000 children are able to attend school every day thanks to the construction of these facilities.  

Another wonderful initiative of Free the Children is the Adopt a Village program which operates in Kenya, China, India, Sierra Leone, Ecuador and Sri Lanka. Adopt a Village has several components including teaching disadvantaged women job skills so they can become economically self-sufficient. With the additional income, the 30,000 women participants are now better able to care for their families and their children are more likely to attend school rather than work. Building schools, enhancing access to clean drinking water and health care services are other important parts of the program.

The organization has won a number of prestigious awards, including the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child (also known as the Children’s Nobel Prize) and the Human Rights Award from the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations. Marc and Craig Kielburger are recipients of The Order of Canada which is given by the Canadian government for outstanding achievement and service to Canada or to humanity at large.

Now let’s meet some of the beneficiaries of a Free the Children project in the Indian state of Rajasthan.  

For more information on Free the Children, please visit www.FreeTheChildren.com

 
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