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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
For more information on Free the Children, please