Free the Children
by Craig Kielburger
Harper Collins 1998
Free the Children Website
I have been living in Canada for over 7 years now, and I have never heard of Craig Keilburger or the Free the Children Charity that he founded. Not until I found his book on a library shelf this week. This story is so amazing.
As most Canadians would know, this is the story of how in 1995, a 12 year old Canadian boy felt moved by a story he read in the newspaper. The newspaper story was about a young Pakstani boy who escaped from his life as a child labourer and was killed for speaking out against employers who use child labour in his country.
Craig was that 12 year old boy. He and some of his school friends founded a charity called Free the Children, which is still running today. Their office is not far from my home. I must have gone past it dozens of time on the streetcar but never saw it.
Craig published his first book in 1998. It tells the story of how he saw that first picture in the paper, of how he wanted to do something to stop child labourers, of how and his freinds founded a charity called Free the Children. This book also describes Craig's first trip to Asia to see child labourers at work.
Craig describes being on his first raid to a carpet factory in India where the children were taken to the police station for statements and then released to the local social group who promised to educate the children and give them vocational training so thay could do other jobs.
Craig also describes his first conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. While Craig was travelling around Asia, he had many contacts and friends who helped him with press conferences. The press and news media were writing some very good stories asking why the western countries were not doing more to help the children.
By a lucky chance, Jean Chretien was travelling around Asia at the same time as Craig was, and eventually they were able to get together for a "chat" in Islamabad. Craig pressed the PM on making a new policy for Canada to stop supporting businesses that use child labour. Chretien agreed with Craig that it would be a good idea, but he refused to promise that that he would make it a policy. Craig did manage to pressure Chretien into putting the subject of child labour onto the government agenda.
I enjoyed this book very much, and I read it for the Canadian Challenge.