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

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9780060175979: Free the Children: A Young Man's Personal Crusade Against Child Labor

In April 1995, twelve-year-old Craig Keilburger opened the daily paper and began to search for the comics page, as usual. But that day, his morning ritual was interrupted when an article about a boy his own age caught his eye.

It was the story of 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 labor. But when this courageous twelve-year-old began to gain international attention, and Pakistani carpet manufacturers began to lose orders, he was shot and killed.

That morning, Craig's life was changed forever. To find out more about child labor, he contacted human rights organizations around the world, and with a small band of his friends from school he formed Free the Children--his won human rights organization. In the weeks that followed, Free the Children took off, fueled entirely by the efforts and enthusiasm of children Craig's own age.

Soon Craig decided that he had to see firsthand the working conditions of South Asian children. At the time he was not even allowed to take the subway alone, but he convinced his reluctant parents to let him fly halfway around the world. For seven weeks, in the company of a young human rights worker named Alam Rahman, 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.

In his travels through Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, Craig witnessed the shocking variety and extent of child labor, and was transformed from a typical, middle-class kid into an activist. In New Delhi and Islamabad he created a sensation--and learned something of the power of the media--when he famously crossed paths with Canada's Prime Minister Jean Chrtien, who was touring Asia with the "Team Canada" trade mission. By the time Craig returned home, he and the young people of Free the Children had gained an international profile.

Free the Children is a passionate and astounding story. It chronicles the continuing journey of one remarkable young activist--and it is a moving testament to the power that children and young adults have to change the world.

The extraordinary journey of "The Most Powerful Kid in the World"

Craig Keilburger--and the human rights organization he founded at age twelve--have made headlines around the globe and have brought unprecedented attention to the worldwide abuse of children's rights.

Free the Children is the dramatic and moving story of Craig's transformation from a regular middle-class kid from the suburbs to an activist fighting on behalf of child laborers on the world stage of international human rights.

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Review:

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

About the Author:

Craig Keilburger has received the Roosevelt Freedom Medal (with Free the Children) and the State of the World Forum Award. He is Ambassador to the Children's Embassy in Sarajevo and was named a Global Leader of Tomorrow at the 1998 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He has also received Canada's Governor General's Award for Meritorious Service. Free the Children is Craig Keilburger's first book. He lives with his family in Canada.

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