Craig Kielburger’s message to Niagara College students was simple: regardless of the direction you take in life, find a way to make a difference.
“There are so many extraordinary ways to give back,” he said, and he should know – he’s given back in ways that are extraordinary.
The world-famous humanitarian, social entrepreneur and author, who first gained international attention as a 12-year-old working to shed light on child labour, spoke at NC on March 13 as part of an appearance presented by Niagara College’s Centre for Student Engagement and Leadership.
His appearance drew a crowd of nearly 400 students, staff and community members, and Kielburger shared his inspiring story, which began in 1995 with an article in the Toronto Star. The story told the tale of a young Pakistani boy and former child slave who had been murdered after becoming an international voice in the fight against child labour. Shocked and angered by the story, Kielburger threw himself into research of child labour and later that year managed to secure a trip to Asia with a 25-year-old chaperone to witness the situation first-hand.
What he saw was shocking: children working as slaves and parents who were forced by poverty and debt into selling their children into child labour.
“In those moments, you realize that no parent wants to sell their own child,” he said, “but poverty is a backbreaking and heartless thief.”
In the years since that initial trip, Kielburger has founded Free the Children – an organization that has implemented projects that help children in developing countries — and later Me to We with his brother, Marc – a social enterprise that sells socially-conscious products and services in support of Free the Children. A group of Niagara College students who recently travelled to Nicaragua as part of a Me to We project were part of Thursday’s audience.
The most inspiring part of Kielburger’s address centred around the concept of “Minga” – a term he learned in a village in Ecuador, and the concept behind the creation of Me to We. While building a school in Ecuador with a group that included his brother, a lack of time and resources led them to the conclusion that the project would be impossible to complete within the few days they had left in the country. The village chief declared a “minga,” which drew hundreds of people from near and far prepared to help.
“Minga,” Kielburger says, is loosely described as “a community coming together to work for the benefit of all.” What’s noteworthy, he adds, is that the English language – which has close to half a million words – doesn’t have one that captures a similar sentiment.
“We need all types of people to do good,” he said, “but we also need more mingas in our community.”
Following his address, Kielburger met with students from NC’s Leadership Exploration and Development (LEAD) program. To view a photo gallery of Kielburger’s visit, click here.
Above: Craig Kielburger meets with students from NC’s Leadership Exploration and Development (LEAD) program.