Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kids feel betrayed. The shooting of all those kids in that school for no reason didn’t help. The other nut who shot up a movie theater was pretty bad too. If a kid can’t go to school or to a movie to feel safe than what is there? They can stay home and hear Mom and Dad fight about their divorce. They need to take action now and one kid did take action to make him feel better about himself and the world.
Craig Kielburger read in a newspaper about a boy dying about 10 years ago and decided that kids need to help kids. A lot of his friends felt helpless and wanted to do something to help when faced with tragedy or even just something they don’t agree with. Yelling at your parents isn’t enough anymore. No one yells anyway. We text and with a just a few characters to write in a text why bother. Mom and Dad are too busy all the time anyway.
Craig was a 12 year old living in Canada and read a newspaper article in The Toronto Star about a boy in Pakistan who dared to speak up about child labor in that country and soon was murdered for defying members of what is called the Carpet Mafia there that puts children to work in factories making carpets. Craig also 12 years old, got angry and began speaking publicly about the tragedy of exploited kids in child labor anywhere he could be noticed.
One 12 year-old-kid - what could he possibly do on behalf of children his age half a world away? Take on his own prime minister, for a start. He talked to classmates, to Congress and to Parliament. What made this kid think he could make a difference? Before long he had classmates get involved with no money or wealthy parents to help financially. In his living room he started a charity called Free The Children.
Eventually he went to Asia recruiting activists and government authorities to bust child sweatshops and sex traffickers. There were early successes but freeing children was more complicated than he imagined. Well, If adults would take care of their children maybe none of these horrific things wouldn’t be taking place . His lowest moment was going back and seeing the same children that they saved being enslaved again.
There is so much poverty and illiteracy there that the kids almost had no choice but to work again. At that point he realized that freeing the children wasn’t enough. They needed something to go to. Schools and offices and projects needed to be done rather than just share the stories with the world. Adults weren’t doing much. Soon he was tackling hardship and ignorance which is the very roots of slavery.
Today he is an adult and Free The Children is in 45 countries and has become a $30 Million Dollar charity. They are building schools, providing clean water and connecting local craftsmen to world markets like selling their ethnic jewelry. There are 2 million volunteers nearly all of them under the age of 18. Hey, isn’t that a form of child labor? No, not when the working children want to do it.
It is the largest network of children helping children. Now there is a fun concert associated with the charity called We Day. It is something like a rock concert filling up large arenas minus the drugs booze bad language and fist fights you might encounter at any other large concert. He does as many as 9 We Days a year and the arena is filled with kids having fun and feeling safe in there, 20,000 safe kids.
We Day features acts like Nelly Furtado, Jennifer Hudson and lectures by activist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Desmond Tutu. When Craig takes the stage the place goes wild. He is joined on stage by his older brother Marc who takes care of the financials of the charity. You can’t buy a ticket to the event because it is by invitation only to kids who cared enough to volunteer.
Why doesn’t everyone in America know more about organizations like these? Why don’t our highly paid bloated pompous politicians take a lesson from kids? Why can’t parents spend more times together as families than fighting with each other breaking up their families? Why can’t adults realize that they were vulnerable kids once too and not exploit them for sex or profits?


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