Mediaplanet: What inspired you to start Free TheChildren? 

Craig Kielburger: When I was 12 years old, at breakfast one morning, I reached for the Toronto Star in search of the daily comics and stumbled upon the headline: “Battled Child Labour, Boy, 12, Murdered.” The story was of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani child’s rights activist, who was silenced for speaking out. I couldn’t believe that a boy my age had been enslaved and was then murdered for shining a light on the issue. I brought the newspaper clipping to school to share Iqbal’s story with my friends. Eleven classmates offered to help, and in that moment, Free The Children was born.

MP: Did you ever imagine that you would start an international charity that would go on to impact thousands of lives?

CK: I never imagined that Free The Children would grow to become the global movement that it is today; twelve years ago, I was just a normal kid from an average family — my parents were both teachers and neither were activists. We started as a small, idealistic group of kids and with the support and encouragement of our local community, our mission began to gain momentum. Today, we are fortunate to have a global support base, which has helped the movement to grow exponentially. More than 8000 schools worldwide participate in our programs, and our youth empowerment event, We Day reaches 200,000 attendees in three countries. Our holistic international development models being implemented in eight countries provide 55,000 children with access to education, and one million people with access to clean water and healthcare.

MP: What role do loyalty programs play in making it easier for people to show their support?

CK: Loyalty programs provide opportunities for people to support the causes that they care about most while engaging in their day-to-day routine. Most importantly, they make charitable giving accessible, and provide alternative options for people to give back without feeling the financial burden and stress of making monetary contributions. 

 “Loyalty programs provide opportunities for people to support the causes they care about most while engaging in their day-to-day routine.”

MP: Why is it important for charities to register with loyalty programs?

CK: Loyalty programs allow charities to keep their administration rates low, allowing them to use donor dollars responsibly and maximize program impacts. We pride ourselves on our very low administrative rate of 10 percent. Thus, 90 percent of donor dollars go directly to service programs for youth.   

MP: Can people donate their reward points to Free The Children?

CK: Yes, Aeroplan members can log on to Aeroplan’s Beyond Miles website and donate their reward points to support Free The Children’s free youth empowerment event, We Day. We Day brings together an entire generation of young changemakers to celebrate service and inspire global citizenship. Since 2007, students from more than 8,000 participating schools have raised $45 million and volunteered 14.6 million hours, in support of over 1000 local and global causes.  We are able to provide these opportunities for youth thanks to donated miles. The donated points allow us to staff the 13 events that take place annually across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., and ensure that the youth in attendance enjoy an unforgettable and inspiring experience. 

 

Organized by Free The Children,  We Day aims to empower individuals around the world.  Source: FreeTheChildren.com

 

MP: Millions of rewards points have been donated globally — how have these points impacted those in need?

CK: There are two significant ways donated reward points make an impact. First, people donate their points directly to the charity to help minimize travel expenses, and second, they donate their points to provide their loved ones with opportunities to volunteer overseas. Thousands have travelled overseas with our social enterprise, Me to We, to volunteer in the developing communities where we work.  These trips are life-changing for the young people who travel with us to places like India and Ecuador, where they help build schools, learn about the local culture, and make new friends from around the world.

MP: You consistently travel all over the world — do loyalty and rewards programs play a role in your life?

CK: Loyalty and rewards programs allow us to decrease our travel costs through discounted flights, accommodations, extra checked baggage for supplies, and more. This helps us maximize the dollars that go towards our domestic programs and empower more young people, schools and communities with the message of service.  

MP: You have already accomplished so much in your career — what’s next for you?

CK: The great thing about starting at the age of 12 is that even after 20 years, there is lots of time ahead. Next year, Free The Children prepares to celebrate its 20th birthday as an organization, and as we reflect on the growth of the movement, we are equally excited to be planning for the next 20 years. It’s amazing to see the generational culture shift that continues to take shape as we work to empower the next generation of global citizens. We are fortunate to have millions of people around the world engaged in this mission and as the We Day movement gains momentum globally, we can’t wait to share in the many adventures and impacts to come.