There are many people around the world who have made an impact by stressing the importance of service and philanthropy. Most of those have made their name by getting involved in causes after they created tremendous wealth for themselves through some business enterprise. Craig Kielburger, however, is a different brand of philanthropist. He has spent nearly his entire life engaged in a singular cause, and it was one that struck him even when he was a young boy. Kielburger is the founder of Me to We, the author of a book, and a man who has contributed millions of dollars and thousands of hours to the cause of forced child labor through his organization “Free the Children.” Through these efforts, he has established himself as an innovative thinker and a leader to be reckoned with, challenging social norms and putting pressure on various national governments to do something about what he considers to be one of the world’s most pressing problems.
While Kielburger has become known as a prominent adult activist, it was his awareness as a child that gave him the opportunity to become such a powerful voice for justice. At only twelve years old, he came across a story in a Toronto newspaper about a young boy who had been forced into labor in a factory in Pakistan. That boy was eventually murdered at the age of twelve, and Kielburger became instant interested in the topic of child labor. This motivated him to lead a movement at his school. He began to give speeches and speak in an impassioned manner about child labor. In addition, he formed a small group of young student activists, known initially as the “Twelve Twelve Year Olds,” which would eventually grow into his charity, “Free the Children.” With his motivations and passions on display from a very early age, he gained a reputation as a person who sincerely cared about the issue, and this provided him with tremendous clout and respect within the activist community.
Kielburger’s first jaunt into real activism came later in 1995, when he took a trip to Asia to see the conditions on the ground. There, he saw the realities of child labor. Accompanied by a family friend, he was able to explore some of the countries where child labor is a major problem. More than just seeing, though, Kielburger used this opportunity to put pressure on the Canadian prime minister. He found out that the Canadian prime minster was traveling to India at the same time, and he requested an opportunity to meet with the prime minister to talk about the issue. Though he did not get that initial meeting, he held a press conference in which he discussed the situation on the ground and asserted that the prime minister had a moral imperative to act on the matter. This eventually caused the prime minister to make statements against child labor. It was then that a young child became a political force, and it signaled to Kielburger the power of his voice on this issue.
In order to help fund Free the Children, Kielburger and his brother established Me to We, a for-profit business designed around socially responsible policies (MetoWe.com). The company is all about its branding. It is designed to sell trips, apparel, and a host of other products to people who believe in the message and the vision of the founder and Me to We (Yahooanswers.com). Half of the profits of Me to We go to support Free the Children, and the goal of this social enterprise is to continue to produce more revenue so that more money can go toward the children. As it currently stands, Free the Children has been able to build more than 600 schools, and there has been tremendous international advocacy work done, causing some nations to re-evaluate their controls and protections on child labor (FreetheChildren.com). Many argue that this has only been made possible because of Kielburger’s innovative work in creating profits through Me to We.
In addition to his work in business and his work in philanthropy, Kielburger has been active in trying to encourage others into a life of volunteerism (Ecokids.com). Along with his brother, he published a book entitled Me to We. In that book, he discusses the practical ways in which volunteers can change the world. It is essentially a treatise on the role of charities in the modern world, and it serves as a very encouraging piece to any person who might be looking to dedicate their life to service. He has also been active on the speaking circuit, going around to many schools and other events to encourage students to give their time, skills, and resources to whatever causes they might be most interested in.
Kielburger’s efforts are truly the most grass roots variety. They started in a sixth grade classroom, when he had an idea to change the world and brought that idea to his peers. Because he had not fear, he was able to make an impact that might have surprised many people around him at that time. His vision has allowed him to create something much bigger, and today, he has a brand and the capacity to donate millions of dollars to stopping child labor around the world. While he has made some progress, he notes that he is far from done, as child labor around the world is still a major issue to be reckoned with (Peaceheroes.com).
- Eco kids.com interview with Craig Keilburger http://www.ecokids.ca/pub/eco_info/topics/kids/craig.cfm
- Yahooanswers.com what did Craig Kielburger do to change the world https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090416143135AAhd9Hx
- Metowe.com who is Craig keilburger? http://www.metowe.com/speakers-bureau/view-all-speakers/craig-kielburger/
- Peaceheroes.com what Craig is doing now http://www.peaceheroes.com/CraigKielburger/craigkielburgerbio.htm
- freethechildren.com http://www.freethechildren.com/about-us/our-story/