Free the Children works to bring education around the world to be the Wings of Justice winner
Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on November 25, 2009
Free the Children
“Won’t somebody please think of the children?” is a running gag on “The Simpsons,” a popular phrase for Helen Lovejoy, Reverend Lovejoy’s wife.
All too often, we don’t think about the children, especially when it comes to the stuff we buy, not knowing who made it — an adult or a child.
Stephen Colbert of the “Colbert Report,” in one of its running gags, talks about the joys of buying a dozen pair of tube socks for $1.99. There are no ramifications over how those socks get made or who makes them as long as they stayed priced really, really low.
After his latest installation of that gag, Colbert interviewed Marc Kielburger, co-founder of Free the Children.
Marc Kielburger told Colbert that they’re trying to take kids out of child labor and put them in school. By going to school, these children could someday grow up and be able to afford products, raising the level of workers around the world. Kielburger points out that there are 55 million unemployed adults in India, yet has 50 million child workers.
What makes Free the Children remarkable is that the organization was founded by a child (Marc’s brother, Craig) and is funded primarily by children. So it’s children who are thinking about the children.
Craig Kielburger was 12 in 1995 when he read a story about a young boy in South Asia who was sold into slavery at the age of 4. The young boy had spent 6 years chained to a carpet-weaving loom.
Craig Kielburger was so inspired by the plight of those who are forced to work and don’t have the opportunity to receive an education that he gathered his classmates and started this organization.
Free the Children helps out more than 1 million young people in 45 countries. With a mantra of “children helping children through education,” the organization has built more than 500 schools in developing regions worldwide.
Child labor issues aren’t the ones that make the front page too often. But it took one 12-year-old reading his local Toronto paper, seeing a story about another boy his age who had a much worse existence, and doing something to make a difference.
And Free the Children isn’t just about education. The organization also runs an Adopt a Village model in China, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Sierra Leone, India, and Ecuador — involving education, health care, alternative income, and clean water and sanitation.
Children — no matter their situation — feel like adults just don’t understand them. And too often, children feel like they can’t do anything about the world’s problems. But having an organization geared toward children, on both sides of the equation, encourages children to see themselves in others their age around the world.
Breaking the cycle of poverty needs to start at the current level of children. Improving education is crucial to accomplish those lofty goals. And children understand this — they just needed a way to get started. Craig Kielburger was a child when he started, inspiring children to do their part. And “a little child will lead them.”
For encouraging children to get more involved in helping fellow children around the world, Free the Children wins this week’s Wings of Justice.