The organization”Free the Children”

Free The Children is a children’s charity founded in 1995 by children’s rights advocate Craig Kielburger.[1] The organization is largely youth-funded, specializing in sustainable development in six marginalized countries: Kenya, Sri Lanka, India, Ecuador, Sierra Leone and China.[2][3]

Free the Children
Formation 1995
Type non-profit organization
Headquarters Toronto, Canada
Founder Craig Kielburger
Key people Marc Kielburger
Website freethechildren.com

History

Craig Kielburger, age 12, on his first trip to South Asia

Free The Children was founded in 1995 by Craig Kielburger when he was 12 years old. Kielburger was reading through the Toronto Star newspaper before school one day when he came across an article about the murder of 12-year-old Pakistani factory worker Iqbal Masih who had spoken out against child labour.[4][5][6]

Soon after, Kielburger established Free The Children with a group of his 12-year-old classmates. The organization was devoted to exposing child labour to North Americans and encouraging other children to get involved in the issue.[7] In an attempt to learn more about child labour, he then travelled to South Asia to meet child labourers and hear their stories first-hand. It was on that trip in 1995 that Kielburger captured the attention of the media (in Canada and, to a lesser extent, the United States) when he secured an impromptu meeting with then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien who was visiting Southeast Asia for a trade delegation. Kielburger attempted to persuade Chrétien to bring the subject of international child labour onto the Canadian Government’s radar.[8]

After returning home to Canada, Kielburger and his friends at Free The Children began taking on fundraisers and petitions in order to help fight child labour. Along with his brother Marc, Kielburger grew the small organization into a full-fledged registered charity.[9]

In 1999, at the age of 16, Craig Kielburger authored Free the Children, a book detailing his journey to South Asia four years earlier and the founding of his charity.[10] The book was re-released in 2007 with Me to We Books.[11]

In the years since its founding, Free The Children has focused its efforts less on eradicating child labour, and more on eradicating the barriers to children’s education in the developing world. According to the organization’s website, their goals are to “Free children from poverty and exploitation and free young people from the notion that they are powerless to affect positive change in the world.”[12] Today, they have built more than 500 schools in developing regions worldwide and established three offices in Canada (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver[13]) and one office in the United States (Palo Alto, California[14]).

 Development work

Free The Children currently implements its Adopt a Village[15] development model in rural communities in six countries: China, Sri Lanka[16], Kenya[15], Sierra Leone, India and Ecuador. Adopt a Village is made up of four components: education, health care, alternative income, and clean water and sanitation. Among other projects, Adopt a Village builds schools and water wells, and provides medical treatment and income sources to the developing regions.[17] These projects are designed to address the root causes of poverty and remove the barriers to children’s education in the developing world.[18]

In 2008, Free The Children celebrated the construction of its 500th school.[2]

Funding

Free The Children’s funding comes largely from young people.[19] In classrooms and youth groups across North America, young people fundraise for Adopt a Village with independent fundraising campaigns or Free The Children’s organized campaigns.[20] A portion of Free The Children’s funding also comes from independent adult supporters, grants and corporate groups. A final portion of the organization’s funding comes from its partner company, Me to We, a social enterprise that donates 50 percent of its net profits to Free The Children and reinvests the rest to grow the social enterprise.[21][22][23] The Me to We website lists its cash and in-kind contributions to Free The Children at over one million dollars annually.[24]

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