This young boy, now aged 35, has inspired me to be aware and grateful of where I am now. In 1995, Craig Kielburger at 12 years old, read an article in the Toronto Star about a Pakistani boy, Iqbal Masih’s murder. It affected him deeply and he decided to take action. He was hurt reading about him being one of thousands of child labourers at the time. As a person of action, he founded the organization, Free the Children along with a group of classmates his age, as well. Craig had full determination to raise awareness about child labour.
I was in Grade 5 when I first learned about ME TO WE, a social enterprise founded by Craig and his brother, Mark. I was told that it’s a movement that raises awareness about children that were my age (11 years) who were suffering and living under harsh conditions. When I heard that there would be the chance to win tickets to WE Day in my school, I was hyped. So, everyone was told to write down and submit why we deserved to go there. Four out of thirty students won, and one of them was me! I was amazed by the atmosphere and the bright lights everywhere. Then I saw music shows, dances and speeches. I learned about Iqbal Masih and I was saddened that another child my age was living in a terrible society. He was fighting for his freedom and rights, and his brutal murder sparked an outrage around the world. He died as a martyr. I didn’t understand why he had to die for speaking up for his rights; and not just him, but also other children like him died to end abolitionism. His famous quote “Children should have pens in their hand not tools,” inspired children like me at my school to help others and be grateful for opportunities that were open to us.
Craig Kielburger felt saddened to hear about Iqbal Masih’s murder because young children like him should be having fun and receiving education, not working their backs off. He wanted children who have been through the same experiences as Iqbal, to speak for themselves rather than having their parents speak for them. I agree with that because some parents tend to twist or cover what has happened to save their self-respect or their honour. That would mean that these children would have to carry this burden or guilt of not being able to speak up wherever they go and no one would be able to help them.
What I really admire about Craig is how ambitious he is to help children thousands of kilometres away from him. He had so much courage and determination, and because of that, Free the Children is now a worldwide organization that empowers people like me to make a difference in the world, one step at a time. Craig realized that freeing children from labour wasn’t enough, as they weren’t able to support their families financially and most of them would have to go back to work. The Kielburger brothers decided to develop a program for children to have access to five things necessary to facilitate their lives: education, water, health, food and alternative income.
In order to discover what children are living through in different societies and organizations involving anti-abolitionism, Craig embarked on a seven-week trip with his family
in the East in India, Nepal, Thailand and Bangladesh. Upon his return, Craig Kielburger was a celebrity. He also asked the prime minister of Canada at the time, Jean Chrétien, during his trip, to talk about child labour in his trade talk. There were many people who wanted to interview him for his work and organizations, but not everyone was convinced. The Saturday Nightmagazine stated that the parents of Craig are using him to enrich the family. They sued the magazine and kept some of the money for legal fees and donated the rest to Free the Children. Craig Kielburger never gave up. He knew if he kept persuading and raise awareness about child labour, people would support the movement. After his appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1999, donations to the organization boosted.
His organizations and opportunities that he offered, inspired people like me and children still living in poverty to not lose hope. If an eleven-year-old boy could speak his voice and create a movement to free the children, then imagine what we can do. We can travel to various countries, give back and volunteer our time to help people living in under-privileged societies. We can donate money and help children receive a proper education to have a fun childhood. Children like Iqbal Masih can now have the opportunity to speak for their rights, themselves, because they won’t have anyone to stop them.
Rockel, Nick. The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail Newspaper. October 26, 2010. Web. Accessed 4 October 2018.
Mcquarrie, Jonathan . "Craig Kielburger". The Canadian Encyclopedia, 04 January 2018, Historica Canada. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/craig-kielburger. Accessed 2 October 2018.
n.p. WE. Me to We. n.d. Web. October 2 2018.