Craig Kielburger who co-founded Free The Children when he was just 12 years old remains a passionate full-time volunteer for the organization, which is now an international charity that empowers youth to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change.
In 2007 he was given the highest civilian honour in Canada when he was named a Member of the Order of Canada for his activist work on behalf of children’s rights.
“One morning when I was 12, I was munching on cereal and flipping through the newspaper in search of the comics,” he wrote in his blog.
“I couldn’t get past the front-page story. It was about a young boy in Pakistan, a child labourer named Iqbal Masih.
“When he was just four years old, Iqbal went to work in a cramped, dusty room for 12 hours a day, six days a week, weaving carpets in a factory.
“After 10 years of backbreaking work, scoldings and beatings from factory guards, Iqbal escaped.
“But then the unthinkable happened. When Iqbal was 12, he was shot dead while riding his bike. Some people say he was killed by the angry factory owner, but no one ever found out for sure.
“Iqbal was 12. I was 12.
“I knew I had to do something for him. But what? I hadn’t been looking to make a big difference in the world.
I was looking for Calvin and Hobbes! Still, I tore out Iqbal’s story and brought it to school.
“I asked my teacher if I could talk to my Grade 7 class. I told them about Iqbal and how much his story inspired me to speak out against child labour.
“I don’t know what, but we have to do something,” I said. “I need your help. Who will join me?"
“Eleven hands went up. That’s how Free The Children was born.”
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017