Craig Kielburer - The Social Entrepreneur for Change
Craig Kielburger is a humanitarian, social activist and best-selling author. He has co-founded Free the Children, a charity to stop child labour in places such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and other third-world countries, and also co-founded Me to We, a campaign that took his ideas of creating child and youth activists and impacting their lives in a way that inspires them. In fact, Craig has given numerous presentations at schools, conferences, national and international stages, spoken to world leaders such as Mother Teresa, The Dalai-Lama, etc. and is the recipient of the Order of Canada, an award that recognizes prestige and honour amongst Canadian greats for social and ethical contributions made worldwide.
Innovators in Action
Craig Keilburger comments on what Me to We and Free The Children are all about.
Craig's religious encounter occurred when he was 12 years old. He said to his parents that he wanted to take two full months off of school to backpack through third-world countries, including Thailand, India, Pakistan and Nepal. His mission was to meet child labourers that came from all walks of life. Seeing as how a 12 year-old could not accomplish such a demanding task at such a young age, to Craig's mother it seemed unrealistic and she laughed at him. To her disappointment, Craig continued to ask her and then started asking his father too until eventually they relented and allowed him to go. His story has inspired what Craig calls the "next 12 year-olds" as he sees that age is not a determining factor for people to realize what the complications and unethical situations that exist in our world are. His idea stems from the power of "networking" which connects him with youth who connect themselves with other youth, and so on. Craig wants to end poverty overseas in Asia and at home, which include Canada and the United States. He highlights the Western world's consumption choices, ethical choices, ethical forms of aid and care and how they are mostly poor, unrational and taken for granted. By connecting with all of these issues in a personal way, the children that Craig inspires can be the ones that can help alleviate the need to free child labourers in the world. What this does is empower children to be the vehicles of change for the rest of their lives, and to inspire others just like Craig has inspired them.
Craig at 12 years old seen with children in Bangladesh that he freed several months prior.
Mission and Challenges
Craig's mission started when he read an article in the newspaper about a child labourer and it infuriated him to the point where he tore the article off the front page and took it to school. He announced to his classmates that something needs to be done and was interested in learning about who would join them. 11 other students raised their hands and from that point on, they were known as the "12" twelve year-olds. One of the challenges that Craig has faced in his lifetime was figuring out a way to make this "club" into an "organization" in such a short period of time. His parents did not allow Craig to ride on the Toronto subway alone at 12 years old, so convincing them to go to Asia was out of the question. Yet, Craig persisted. He raised half the money for the trip himself; he associated himself with a 25 year-old chaperone originally from Bangladesh and spoke the language; he contacted other organizations and informed them of his cause and for eight long months this continued until his parents finally said yes. If there is one Craig can teach and inspire one to do, it is to be persistent and keep chasing your dreams. Throughout his lifetime Craig has travelled to different parts of the world to inspire change. In 1996, he met with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to discuss that his actions should focus more on human rights rather than commerce, trade and policy. The Canadian Press Core was also there at the time and interviewed several youth that were captured and forced to work in child labour. Through their stories and experiences, they explained the hardships and realities of being away from their parents and families for so long. The story made it on the front page of newspapers across Canada and the Prime Minister met with Craig, wanting to discuss what the Canadian Government should focus on in terms of the human rights and freedoms of children. On the Maurizio Costanzo Show in Rome, Italy there were issues with sex tourism, which is the act of engaging with prostitutes while travelling to a new country. This affects children that are considerd to be minors and that are targetted. In 11 countries, the law was passed to control sex tourism and recently in Italy Craig inspired the country and its citizens to pass the new law. The most incredible quality about Craig is the limited amount of challenges that he has faced. Perhaps he has not experienced them yet. There is also the possibility that he handles these challenges in his private life and does not let them surface into the public sphere, which is both commenadable and respectable.
Craig seen atop of the world after giving a press conference to an inspired audience.
The Morality of Craig's Mission
Craig's morality stems directly from Proverbs 31:8 which states, "Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, for the rights of all who need an advocate. Speak up, judge righteously, defend the cause of the poor and the needy," and is directly related to the intiatives set out for Me to We. This Bible passage highlights the importance of Craig's activism in society to educate and inform others about how to come together, stop and alleviate the problems associated with child labour and abuse. It means to have the voice that can speak out to others for others and be the change in the world. Why Craig's mission is acceptable to God is because he lives vicariously through God as God would want him to, for God lived vicariously through Jesus and taught people to love one another, forgive one another and to bring peace to one another in hopes of creating Heaven on Earth. God accepts Craig as one of his children for all the hard work, dedication, inspiration and motivation that he instills in others and our youth, today. If it were not for Craig, laws would not be passed around the world; the Western world would not view human rights and children's rights as critically and empathetically as they do today; and over 50,000 children would not have been freed from slavery and malnutrition to be reunited with their long lost families. In fact, the Bible states through Luke 18:15-17, "Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it,” which is significant because it is perhaps Craig that follows Jesus' footsteps and gives these children another chance at a life that they are destined to live. Finally, Proverbs 21:15 shows us that "When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers," which is true with respect to what Craig has accomplished over his 20-year advocacy career and through his campaigns to alleviate child labour. The world is starting to open their eyes and open their hearts to the possibility that perhaps they do possess the power to create change and to be part of a movement that is both awe-inspiring and detrimental to the well-being of children across the world. Through Craig's passion and determination, God's work will continue and will create an abundance of love, laughter and creation of human rights so that those children that suffered by the hands of evildoers will be free to roam the Earth in peace, and be one with God through Craig.
Craig Keilburger giving his "Freedom" speech in front of a massive Minnesota audience.