Social Entrepreneur Of The Year 2008 Winner Canada

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EY is proud to collaborate with the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a sister organization of the World Economic Forum, in the presentation of the Social Entrepreneur Of The Year award in several countries.

Craig Kielburger was 12 years old when he read a newspaper story about a young boy who worked as a slave in a carpet factory in Pakistan. After escaping captivity, the boy began to speak out against child labor, but was soon murdered by those who wanted to silence him. Across the world, in Canada, the story compelled Craig to gather several of his seventh grade classmates to fight child poverty. It was 1995, and Free The Children had begun.

The spark of a simple idea quickly grew from garage-sale fundraisers into an organization with a detailed strategy to help alleviate the poverty and inequity that affect millions of children and families in the developing world.

The story of Free The Children’s inception has become the very essence of what the organization strives to achieve. 

“Students have the skills, conviction and passion to make a very real, global impact,” says Craig Kielburger. “Free The Children is all about empowering young people to channel their enthusiasm and passion for life into becoming socially conscious global citizens. They’re the next generation of leaders who can change the world today.”

With this mission, Craig and his brother Marc Kielburger have built the largest network in the world of children helping children through education. The organization educates children in the Western world about social issues and empowers them to take action in their communities at home and around the globe, as well as help children of developing countries receive an education – and in the end, break the cycle of poverty.

Today, the organization is funded and driven by the energy of over one million young leaders and adult supporters. Together they are making a difference in their communities through education and development programs in over 45 countries.

One of Free The Children’s pioneering campaigns is the Adopt A Village community development program, which brings sustainable development to countries overseas. The program brings clean water and sanitation systems, alternative income projects, healthcare services and education to the world’s impoverished regions. Adopt A Village has established more than 23,000 alternative income projects to help women and their families achieve sustainable incomes.

The Brick by Brick campaign inspires children to fundraise for school building projects. The campaign has built more than 500 schools throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America, providing daily education to more than 50,000 children. 

Another innovative initiative is the Me to We social enterprise, which was also founded by Marc and Craig. It encourages ethical living and social responsibility, while helping Free The Children achieve financial sustainability. Half of Me to We’s annual profits net after tax on an annual basis are given to its charitable partner Free The Children, with the other half reinvested to sustain the growth of the enterprise. Last year alone – through international volunteer travel programs, a publishing house, music label, leadership workshops and a clothing line – the campaign worked with more than half a million people and some of the largest companies in the world to make social change as easy as buying an organic fair trade t-shirt.

“Craig and Marc embody the essence of social entrepreneurs,” says Colleen McMorrow, National Director of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards. “When young people are inspired to make positive change, their efforts gain momentum. This is a sustainable approach to changing how the next generation thinks about poverty and inequality – and over time, this changes the world.”