The name of this NGO is Free The Children. A young man named Craig Kielburger formed this organization in April 1995. One morning, 12-year-old Craig was flipping through the Toronto Star, in search of the comics. But a powerful headline caught his eye. It read "Battled Child Labour, Boy, 12, Murdered.", and detailed the story of Iqbal Masih. Iqbal had been sold into slavery at the age of 4, and was chained to a carpet–weaving loom until he escaped 6 years later. He began to speak out for children’s rights, and his widespread media attention angered those that wished to silence him. He was shot and killed at the age of 12 for defending the rights of children. Craig retold the story of Iqbal to students at his school in Thornhill, Ontario. He gathered together a small group of other grade 7 students, and Free The Children was born. It is now the world’s largest network of children helping children through education.

Iqbal Masih, killed for speaking out against child slavery
Craig Kielbuger, founder of Free The Children


Free the Children believes in Children helping Children through education. Their main goal is to liberate children from poverty. They are also working to empower youth and free them from exploitation. One of their central goals is to inspire young people to be globally aware and stand up for change. They hope to get rid of child labour in all countries, both rich and poor. In order to reach its goals, Free the Children makes people aware of their work. They have motivational speakers who tour around North America and visit hundreds of schools every year. Craig and Marc Kielburger themselves speak and inspire young people at events such as "We Day", held in various cities across Canada in October. There is also a We Schools in Action program that encourages students to be passionate about social justice. They are encouraged to share their knowledge with their communities in order to help Free the Children grow in support. This NGO relies on donations from people and companies to keep their programs and projects running. They start locally and with the help of others continue to broaden their experience internationally. The services they provide range from encouraging leadership to building schools where they are needed. Free the Children is committed to helping all children, whether they live in Canada or Kenya.
So what can you do to help? Spread the word, participate in projects and initiatives, and donate what you can!

Michel Chikwanine addressing 16,000 student leaders at We Day 2009

Where in the World

Free The Children operates locally and internationally, spreading the message of social change. Their programming in North America focuses mainly on youth with a strong emphasis on educators, families and the corporate world. They work to change attitudes and priorities in North America so that people are able to reach out to others around the globe. Their “Adopt A Village” project is implemented in rural and marginalized areas in Kenya, China, India, Sierra Leone, Ecuador and Sri Lanka. They think holistically, knowing that everyone and everything is a part of a wider system.


Success Stories

This NGO runs projects such as:

Halloween For Hunger (October 31)

· Youth trick-or-treat in local community for canned goods
· Brings awareness to global hunger issues
When youth sign up, Free The Children provides them with the resources they will need (e.g. step-by-step guide, flyers to pass out)

Vow of Silence (November 20)
· Youth remain silent for 24 hours to stand up for children silenced by poverty, war and oppression
· Raises awareness for international children's rights
· Collect donations while they remain silent


One Night Out (Feb. 25-26)

· Youth sleepover in their school gym or outside
· Brings awareness to the issue of local homelessness

Brick by Brick
· Youth and entire schools sign up and choose a specific country to support
· They raise money to build a school, helping children overseas who are denied the basic right to education
· Schools run fundraisers and awareness campaigns about education issues

Craig helping a young Kenyan student with his English homework

Many children in poor countries have benefited from Free the Children’s schools and Adopt a Village programs. This is the story of Florida, a teenage girl in Kenya. Her family, consisting of ten people, is very poor. Her parents are farmers and all of the children help out as much as they can. Before the Free the Children school was built in her community, Florida never had any access to an education, and she and her family are very grateful to Free the Children for their contribution to the village. Florida is very happy to go to school and have some free time to play with her friends. We can all learn from Florida's appreciation for simplicity. She finds joy in everything she does, be it work, play, or everyday living.


Project of Focus

Free The Children runs an international project called Adopt a Village. This project is designed to meet the basic needs of developing countries and help children gain access to an education. Adopt a Village is implemented in rural and marginalized areas in Kenya, China, India, Sierra Leone, Ecuador and Sri Lanka. In order to lift communities out of poverty, this project has four crucial pillars: education, health care, alternative income, and water and sanitation. They follow a holistic Adopt a Village development model. Their website explains this model: “Thinking holistically means knowing that everyone and everything is part of a wider system. It means understanding that if we’re going to help children break free from poverty, we must first empower their mothers, improve their schools, outfit their health clinics and build their water facilities. It means making change sustainable so that children can realize their rights, get their education and live to their full potential.” (5) Adopt a Village is important because it makes sustainable change as opposed to temporary change. It provides support in order to build healthy communities that will continue to prosper into the future. Also, it focuses on giving back to children the rights they have been denied, such as the right to an education, the right to adequate nutrition and medical care, and the right to learn to be a useful member of society and develop individual abilities.

Through this project:

· over 500 schools have been built, which now teach over 50 000 students a day

· 139 thousand people have been provided access to clean drinking water

· 23.5 thousand women have been equipped to become economically self-sufficient

There is no doubt that this project is worthy of funding from the public. Free The Children uses funds from generous donors to make Adopt a Village happen. For example, many schools participate in the Build a School component of this project, where schools raise awareness for one specific country (Kenya, China, India, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, or Sri Lanka). Through fundraisers and events, they collect money to donate to the building of a school in that country. Free The Children believes that education provides the highest return of any social investment in the developing world; it can help to break the cycle of poverty for future generations.

Free the Children states that their main focus in India is "pulling children off the streets and into the classroom." Education is a strong focus in India, as only 61% of the population over 15 years of age are literate. Aside from the rate of educated adults being low, boys are usually enrolled in school longer than girls. India is facing a prominent gender inequality issue and Free the Children is continuing to build schools to try and reduce the imbalance. By improving education we can reduce the number of people living below the poverty line, and increase employment. Right now 25% of the Indian population lives below the poverty line, and 10.7% are unemployed. This means that many people, even those that are employed, do not have a sustainable income to support their families. This is where the alternative income portion of Adopt a Village plays a role. Women in developing countries are generally less educated than men, so Free the Children provides struggling women with useful resources that they can handle. For example, a sewing machine may be given to a woman so that she is able to sell clothes to create income. Farm animals are also a valuable resource. By providing a family with two goats, they can sell the offspring of the goats, and can use the money to buy food. Free The Children's Adopt a Village program has significantly improved the lives of many people in the developing world, and meets specific needs of individual communities. India is struggling with a lack of education and unemployment rates, so by building schools Free the Children provides resources to help the people overcome these issues.

Project Product

FREE THE CHILDRENAdopt a Village Project
Join the social change movement: Adopt a Village and free children from poverty.


Fun Facts

  • On Wednesday, April 7, 2010, Marc Kielburger (Craig's brother. co-founder of Free the Children) was presented with the Order of Canada at Rideau Hall, by the Governor General, Michaelle Jean. He has done a significant amount of social justice work for Free the Children and other organizations.

  • Free the Children has been working in Haiti. They have collaborated with Partners in Health to provide emergency relief to the suffering nation. Partners in Health has been working in Haiti for over twenty years. Free the Children has built nine schools in Haiti and are continuing to provide medical care to the people in Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas.
Craig with kids at Dos Palais, a Free The Children primary school in rural Haiti

  • Free The Children has partnered with the Lester B Pearson School Board in Quebec. This partnership will last from 2009 to 2012, and will encourage students to use their leadership skills to make an impact on those around them. New opportunities will be provided to the students, and both groups have great expectations for the future.

The first reason we chose to research Free The Children is because we have had experience with them and support the kind of work they do. We are both members of Nelson High School’s "Be the Change" social justice group, which participates in many Free the Children initiatives. Secondly, this NGO is committed to educating children to help other children. As youth, we can strongly relate and connect with their mission to reach out through children. Finally, Free the Children has started many programs to support those in need. Their multiple projects continue to have a positive impact on the lives of others . We love the effort Free the Children puts into helping people in underdeveloped countries, and continue to support them through Be the Change.

Ninety-one percent of all donations to Free the Children go directly to their development projects around the world. Supporting Free the Children projects is worthwhile because donors know that their money will truly be making a difference in the world. The Board of Directors is made up exclusively of volunteers, and they ensure that any money raised is spent wisely.