Free The Children
Recently I had the opportunity to see Craig Kielburger, founder of Free The Children, speak at a gathering organized by Ann and Jason Green. Jason is a successful venture capitalist and founding board member at Endeavor, so he spends a lot of his time looking for great entrepreneurs. When he told me that Craig was one of the most extraordinary individuals he'd ever met, I knew I had to check it out.
Craig shared the inspiring story of Free The Children, an international charity organization with over 2 million youth involved in its education and development programs. Craig and his brother Marc also started Me to We, "an innovative social enterprise that offers socially conscious and environmentally friendly products and life-changing experiences."
Craig described Free The Children's mission to embed the values of service and giving in our youth. Most kids have a favorite sport, musical instrument, or subject in school - but how many have a favorite community service activity? Why isn't volunteering and giving a more integrated part of our educational curriculum from the outset?
If future generations were raised with a mindset of service, what kind of world would be possible? Instead of a society where people are passive to problems, perhaps we would have a culture more focused on helping each other and alleviating suffering. A widespread shift from "me to we", if you will.
Free The Children organizes We Day events around the world. We Day is an inspirational day of action that brings together youth and educators to celebrate service, learn more about their communities, and create a blueprint for social change. Last week sixteen thousand people attended the first ever We Day California at the Oracle Arena, featuring guest speakers ranging from Martin Luther King III to Seth Rogen.
Upon listening to Craig and learning more about Free The Children, we immediately felt compelled to support the organization, and the Namaste Foundation has just contributed with an Impact Gift. Here are some of the reasons we got excited:
- A focus on youth - Kids are the future. It sounds cliche, I know, but it's true. Beyond the obvious fact that kids will be running our planet one day, Craig pointed out how youth can make a meaningful impact in the world right now. With unbridled idealism, kids can bring us back closer to the fundamental truths of kindness, sharing, and compassion.
- Entrepreneurial excellence - Craig is clearly an amazing entrepreneur. After starting Free The Children when he was only 12 years old, he has scaled it into a global organization and exudes contagious excitement for his work. There were several kids in the room at Jason's event, and Craig's talk immediately got them riled up about community service. One quickly blurted out, "That was the most inspiring thing I've ever heard in my life." All of them were eager to get started. Many of the adults were teary eyed.
Craig's commentary about the nonprofit world becoming more transparent, less competitive, and more innovative also really resonated.
- The power of events - Large scale gatherings and shared experiences are a terrific way to build commitment and deepen the kind of "shift" our society needs. We Day events are free (thanks to sponsoring organizations) but not available to just anyone - you have to earn your attendance by getting involved in at least one local and one global community service project per year.
Free The Children partners with schools in providing classroom resources, teacher training, and student-led campaigns throughout the year, thus making We Day a much-anticipated milestone that everyone can work towards.
- The importance of referrals - I have a lot of respect for Jason, so through his recommendation I was predisposed to having a favorable opinion of Craig and Free The Children. How can your nonprofit organization or social cause harness the influence of referrals? How can you can more effectively use platforms like Facebook to build credibility among potential contributors and collaborators?
Here are some ways to get involved in Free The Children and learn more:
- Free The Children website and Facebook page
- Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World and My Grandma Follows Me on Twitter - books by Craig and Marc
- We Day website and scheduled events
- MeToWe.com - Volunteer trips, socially conscious gifts and apparel
“I won't give up until the exploitation of all children has ended and all children have their rights.” - Craig Kielburger