Free the Children: A Young Man’s Personal Crusade Against Child Labor

By in Child Advocacy on June 27, 2013

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In April 1995, 12-year-old Craig Keilburger read an article about a Pakistani child who, at the age of four, was sold into slavery by his parents. For the next six years, he was shackled to a carpet loom, tying thousands upon thousands of tiny knots, twelve hours a day, six days a week. For this he was paid three cents a day. Amazingly, his will was never broken; he escaped and began efforts to reveal the horrors of child labour. But when he began to gain international attention, and Pakistani carpet manufacturers began to lose orders, he was shot and killed. Craig Keilburger contacted human rights organizations around the world, and with a small band of his friends from school he formed Free the Children. To see firsthand the working conditions of South Asian children Craig journeyed through the world of slums, sweatshops, and back alleys where so many of the children of South Asia live in servitude, often performing the most menial and dangerous of jobs. This is the chronicle of the continuing work of one young activist and the human rights organization he founded at the age of 12, to bring attention to the worldwide abuse of children’s rights.Twelve-year-old Craig Kielburger, upset by a newspaper article about the forced slavery and subsequent murder of a child in Pakistan, began in 1995 to research worldwide injustice against children. Armed with the disturbing facts, he convinced friends at his Canadian grade school to form a group to advocate for children’s rights. With world-changing zeal, Free the Children gathered information, wrote world leaders, and led conferences on the issue with other youth. Kielburger himself was given the opportunity to accompany a human rights worker through cities in South Asia.

The young man witnessed shocking abuse from which most middle-class Western children have been carefully shielded: he met an 8-year-old girl whose job was to recycle bloody syringes without gloves or other protection, children in a factory working with extremely hazardous materials to provide fireworks for a Hindu religious celebration, and children sold for sex on urban streets. On returning to his home in Canada, Kielburger bore witness to what he had seen and asked a simple, devastating question: “If child labour is not acceptable for white, middle-class North American kids, then why is it acceptable for a girl in Thailand or a boy in Brazil?”

Free the Children is now a powerful organization in support of the world’s youth, and this book is sure to be a call to further action–certainly for all young people, and perhaps for many adults who have previously felt hopeless about the possibility of ending abusive child labor and poverty. “We simply do not believe that world leaders can create a nuclear bomb and send a man to the moon but cannot feed and protect the world’s children,” says the author. “We simply do not believe it.” –Maria Dolan

3 thoughts on “Free the Children: A Young Man’s Personal Crusade Against Child Labor

  1. 1
    12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Insperational! I can’t wait to start an FTC chapter!, December 2, 1999
    By 
    S. Dunn (Indiana) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: Free the Children: A Young Man’s Personal Crusade Against Child Labor (Hardcover)

    I too saw Craig at NCYC in St. Louis last month. For those who don’t know, NCYC is the National Catholic Youth Conference. There were close to 22,000 Teens and young adults at this conference when Craig spoke. We were all in the TWA dome, and you could have heard a pin drop it was so silent. He really grabbed our attention and moved us all to become advocates for the Children. I had to buy his book, and speak to him afterwards. I told him he was very inspirational, and a great role model for his peers, and he responded “the best compliment you can give me is to get active for the children, this is their cause”. (Something along those lines at least.) This book gives us all great insight to the horrors that children of the world have to face. We have it so easy here in the USA it’s about time someone opened our eyes! And it’s amazing that a group of 12 year olds started an organization that has grown world wide in only 4 years. You can bet my church group is going to start helping.

    Read this book…you’ll want to help too.

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  2. 2
    9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Excellent!, November 1, 2003
    By 
    Dizziey (Arlington, VA) –

    “Free the Children” is an excellent book on the issue of child labor. Craig Kielburger, a 12 years old Canadian became an activist after reading from the newspaper that Iqbal Masih, also another 12 years old from Pakistan was killed because of his support for the abolition of child labor. Soon, Craig started the “Free the Children” foundation, consists of only school children and their goal is to bring awareness to the issue of child labor. In order to learn more about this issue, Craig travelled to South Asian countries like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and to Thailand, hoping to meet the children himself.

    His detailed explanation of his trip was quite horrifying. Craig saw that the children were working as much as 10-12 hours a day for a mere US $1-2. Some of the children worked at firework factories where injuries were common and no safety measures were taken. Other times, children were beaten if they do not work. The most disturbing part of the book was his investigations in Bangkok where sex trade was rampant. Children were used as sex tools to lure tourists. The emotional, mental and physical scars that these children bore were immeasurable.

    “Free the Children” for me personally, is quite an inspiring book as it shows how one person can make a difference. In addition, it is quite an eye-opener as Craig argues, with examples, why child labor should be abolished and how each and everyone of us can assist in that. I highly recommend this book to anyone as it is extremely educational and motivational. I would caution parents on the part of Bangkok to young children as it can be quite disturbing and graphic.

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  3. 3
    9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Brilliant & Inspiring, December 29, 2001
    By 
    “jj223″ (Bligh Park, NSW Australia) –

    After reading Free The Children I feel as though my eyes have been opened to another world. Craig Kielburger managed to keep me interested while successfully telling his story.

    At times I laughed while I read the book. However at times I was horrified by what I was reading.

    Free The Children has shown me that one person or a small group of people can make a difference, it has also given me the inspiration that I needed to get on with my life. My problems are nothing compared to what others in the world go through.

    All over, Free The Children is well worth the read and I would strongly recomment this book to adults as well as children.

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