Free the Children

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Free the Children
Free The Children Logo.png
Current Free the Children logo.
Motto Be The Change
Formation 1995
Type International charity and educational partner
Headquarters Toronto, Canada
  • Work in less developed nations
Craig Kielburger, Marc Kielburger

Free the Children is an international charity and youth movement founded in 1995 by human rights advocate Craig Kielburger.[1] Funded to a large extent by youth, the organization originally used the motto, "children helping children". It specializes in sustainable development in the countries of Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, Tanzania, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, India and rural China. The organization runs educational programs and campaigns in developed countries, with the aim of empowering youth to become socially engaged.[2][3][4]


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. Craig was reading through the Toronto Star newspaper before school one day when he came across an article about the murder of a 12-year-old Pakistani boy called Iqbal Masih, a former child factory worker, who had spoken out against child labour.[5][6][7]

Soon after, Kielburger established Free the Children with a group of his 12-year-old classmates. The organization was formed to raise awareness in North America about child labour and to encourage other children to get involved in the issue.[8] In an attempt to learn more about child labour, Kielburger 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 North America.

In 1999, at the age of 16, Craig Kielburger wrote Free the Children, a book detailing his journey to South Asia four years earlier and the founding of his charity.[9] The book was re-released in 2007 with Me to We Books.[10]

The original logo of Free the Children; still used periodically on flyers and banners.

As stated on the charity's website, its goals are to "empower young people to remove barriers that prevent them from being active local and global citizens."[11] Today, Free the Children has built more than 650 schools and school rooms in developing regions worldwide, and it has established offices in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, London (England), and Palo Alto (California).[12][13]

Development Work[edit]

Free the Children implements its Adopt a Village[14] development model in rural communities in eight countries: rural China, Nicaragua,[15] Kenya,[14] Sierra Leone, Haiti, India, Ecuador and most recently Ghana. Adopt a Village is made up of five pillars: education, clean water and sanitation, health, alternative income and livelihood, and agriculture and food security. The fifth pillar, agriculture and food security, was announced by Free the Children in 2012.[16] Among its other projects, Adopt a Village builds schools and water wells, provides medical treatment and helps create alternative income programs for people in developing communities.[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] In 2010, the organization updated its website to show that it has now built 650 schools and school rooms which educate 55,000 children a day.[19]

Youth empowerment work[edit]

Free the Children works with schools and families in developed countries "to educate, engage and empower young people as agents of change." It does so through its overarching program called We Act, a year-long service-learning program launched by We Day. The program includes a team of Youth Programming Coordinators who mentor school and community youth groups; curriculum resources for elementary, middle, and high school classrooms; online resources; service campaigns; action kits; professional development sessions for teachers and motivational speaking tours and workshops.[20]

Free the Children has also teamed up with Me to We, its social enterprise partner organization, to offer summer leadership Take Action camps and international volunteer trips for youth. Through school or youth groups they can travel overseas to take part first-hand in development projects they have fundraised for. Participants build leadership skills and learn about global development and social issues. These experiences can take place in Arizona-Mexico, Kenya, Ecuador, rural China, Ghana, Nicaragua and India. Youth "return with new perspectives and more energy than ever before to get their family and friends involved in raising awareness and funds for overseas development projects through Free the Children."[21]

We Day[edit]

Main article: We Day

Free the Children holds an annual series of an events called We Day. A stadium-sized event, We Day brings together tens of thousands of youth in an inspirational event as part of the yearlong educational initiative of We Act. We Day features notable speakers, such as Al Gore, the Elie Wiesel, and performers, such as Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Hudson and Nelly Furtado.[22] Attended by thousands of students, tickets are not purchased, but instead are given to students who earn their tickets through service in a local or a global cause.

Free the Children founders Marc and Craig Kielburger at We Day 2008.


Free the Children’s funding comes from young people.[23] In classrooms and youth groups across North America and the UK, young people fundraise for Adopt a Village through independent fundraising campaigns or Free The Children’s organized campaigns.[24] 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 the social enterprise Me to We, a business with a social mission: to donate half of its net profits to Free the Children[25] and to provide consumers with socially conscious products and experiences.[26] The Me to We website lists its cash and in-kind contributions to Free the Children at over $5 million since 2009.[27] The Board of Directors, who drive much of the corporate funding, consists of dozens of industry leaders. The Board Chairwomen are Eva Haller and Michelle Douglas.[28]

Celebrity ambassadors[edit]

Corporate partners[edit]


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ a b "Home - Faculty of Education - University of Alberta". Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  3. ^ "Free The Children, Canada | School Chain Showcase - The Fraser Institute". 2009-02-05. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  4. ^ "Financials". Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  5. ^ "Iqbal Masih and Craig Kielburger: children against child labour". 2000-11-19. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  6. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Free the Children: A Young Man Fights Against Child Labor and Proves That Children Can Change the World: Craig Kielburger, Kevin Major: Books". Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  10. ^ "Me to We". Me to We. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  11. ^ "About Us". Free The Children. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  12. ^ "Accueil". Enfants Entraide. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  13. ^ "Free the Children opens office, holds rally". Palo Alto Online. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  14. ^ a b "Newspaper". Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  15. ^ "Nakheel donates Dh7m to Free the Children cause". gulfnews. 2008-10-06. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  16. ^ "Agriculture and Food Security". Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  17. ^ "Free the Children". Razoo. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  18. ^ "Free The Children, Canadá | School Chain Showcase - The Fraser Institute". 2009-02-05. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  19. ^ "Free The Children = Adopt a Village". Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Free The Children Mount Allison Vow of Silence — March 1 - Canadian University Press Releases". 2006-02-22. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  25. ^ [2]
  26. ^ [3]
  27. ^ [4][dead link]
  28. ^

External links[edit]