Sunday, 20 February 2011

Book: Free the Children by Craig Kielburger

Score: 4.5/5

This book was a gift from my friend Patrick Wan over the holidays of 2010.  It documented the beginning of “Free the Children” foundation and the dramatic journey of its 13 year old founder, Craig Kielburger, through Asia interviewing the many children who were sold to slave labour.

Craig was inspired by a Pakistani child labourer Iqbal Masih, who was murdered for standing against child labour.  He founded “Free the Children” with the belief that children understand their own needs the best, and contrary to conventional wisdom, can and want to participate to make the world a better place.  To better understand his cause, Craig traveled to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Thailand to see the child slaves first hand.  These observations formed the basis for the book.

Perhaps because Craig lived in my neighbourhood, and is almost the same age as me (he’s one week younger) that the book had an impact on me.  I am inspired by his determination and optimism that he can make tomorrow better.  Some of my favourite parts from the book:

(My brother and I) grew up with the mottoes: “Go for it!  The only failure in life is not trying.”

What is a good and normal childhood in the world today?  In my travels i have found two extremes.  In many developing countries, children are often asked to work long hours at hazardous jobs with no opportunity to play or to go to school.  They are not allowed to develop physically, intellectually, and emotionally as they should.  They support entire families.  They fight in wars.  They are given too much responsibility at too young an age.

On the other hand, in many industrialized countries everything is done for children.  They are segregated most of their lives with members of their own age group and are given little opportunity to assume responsibility, to develop a social conscience, or to learn through interaction with adults.  Through media they learn to be consumers, to gain their self-image through the electronic toys they own and the labels they wear.  They, too, are exploited.

Hope you enjoy the book, too!

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