Our fine 13 year students from our IFOR Global Education Project Week had to choose their favourite nonviolent activist hero. This group choose Craig Kielburger of Free the Children because they admired the fact that Craig and his 12 year old friends started Free The Children.
In 1995, when he was 12 years old, Craig saw a headline in the Toronto Star that read “Battled child labour, boy, 12, murdered.” The accompanying story was about a young Pakistani boy named Iqbal Masih who was forced into bonded labour in a carpet factory at the age of four, became an international figurehead for the fight against child labor, and was brutally murdered in 1995 at the age of 12.
Angered by the article, Craig Kielburger began researching child labour. He took the article to school, gathered friends his same age and together founded a group called the "Twelve-Twelve-Year-Olds," This group would evolve into "Free The Children", an international organization that has 45 countries participating in helping the world become a better place. In December 1995, Kielburger travelled to Asia with Alam Rahman, a 25-year-old family friend from Bangladesh, to see the conditions for himself. While there, he learned that then-Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien was travelling to India. After being denied a meeting, Craig arranged a press conference where he announced that the prime minister had a “moral responsibility” to take action on child labour. The Prime Minister eventually met with him and raised the issue of child labour with the trade delegation, and spoke on the matter with the President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India.
He and a group of others also successfully lobbied the Canadian and Italian governments to stiffen laws against their nationals who sexually exploit children in developing countries like those in Asia.
Free The Children began to receive international attention - and partnered with Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network, for which Kielburger has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show multiple times.
The organization has to date built over 650 schools and school rooms and implemented projects in 45 developing countries through its approach of "children helping children". The majority of the organization’s annual funding comes from funds raised by young people.
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