He was reaching for the comics one morning when he stumbled upon a tragic story, a 12-year-old, Iqbal Masih, has been killed on speaking about child labor rights. This was the fuel that started the fire of Free the Children.
Craig Kielburger, 32, co-founder of Free The Children and We Day, was 12-years-old when he picked up that article. As he read through each line a wave of shock then anger went throughout his body.
“I was the same age as him [Iqbal] and he was asking for basic rights,” Kielburger said. “Iqbal was the inspiration and still to this day one of my greatest heros.”
With that inspiration he spoke to his class and gathered 11 of his friends, and together they created a group called “12, 12 year olds” who wanted to make a change.
“And that’s how we started this movement 20 years ago,” Kielburger said.
Kielburger is attending his 64 We Day, an event him and co-founder, his brother Marc Kielburger created; it celebrates and empowers the younger generation to give back and make the change this world needs. Each student earns a ticket to this life-changing event by giving back to a local and global cause.
There will be 200,000 students attending We Day in the U.S. alone this year. Together 20 million hours of service, $16 million raised in different charities. In California 850 schools are dedicated to this organization, with a total of 550 schools in attendance for We Day Los Angeles this past Thursday at the Forum.
Rewind 20 years ago, Kielburger never thought his dreams would become a reality.
“We imagined building our first school, then when we hit that goal, we said let’s make 10 schools… that was met at the end of high school,” Kielburger said.
People laughed at them, considered them daydreamers, but they kept their motivation and determination. “Now over a 1,000 schools have been created, with 200,000 students graduated from those schools and over a million people with clean water and medical. I couldn’t have never imagined this.”
Meeting many prominent political leaders, speaking to a U.S. Congressional committee as a teenager, Kielburger took a moment for one vital advice he could give to his 12-year-old self:
“You are never too young… you don’t have to wait, the world needs you now. Each person has a contribution to make this world a better place.”
Kielburger’s momentum in life has given many children around the world incredible opportunities and life changing necessities. When he walks onto the stage with his brother on We Day he tells the audience they are not alone. That we are the change and the movement.
“Looking into the audience and seeing a face of young person lost in a complete sense of wonder and awe, who worked so hard to be here through local and global action,” Kielburger on his favorite part of We Day. “That moment their celebrity or hero looks to them and says ‘I’m here because of you, and you inspire me’ we see the youth sense of self and empowerment.”