Have you heard of Free the Children? Here's the quick summary from their website:
"Free The Children is the world's largest network of children helping children through education, with more than one million youth involved in our innovative education and development programs in 45 countries. Founded in 1995 by international child rights activist Craig Kielburger, Free The Children has a proven track record of success. The organization has received the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child (also known as the Children's Nobel Prize), the Human Rights Award from the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, and has formed successful partnerships with leading school boards and Oprah's Angel Network... Free The Children has built more than 500 schools around the world and has reached more than one million young people through outreach in North America."
Free the Children started in Canada, but they've just opened their first US office in Palo Alto, CA. Close friends of ours (Jonathan shown in the front center of the photo to the left) have been involved with FTC for years, and Mheir and I went with them last night to a rally and celebration of the new office. You can read more about it in Palo Alto Online, or watch a short video clip at ABC-7 (we're not in it).
While not directly related to children's books, I wanted to tell you all about it because the whole thing was a celebration of kids making a difference. There were also plenty of reminders about the importance of education, and the need to spread literacy in other countries. We heard from local kids who took on projects to help kids they'd never met from half-way around the world. Seventh grader Megha Malpami raised $5,000 to build a well in Kenya, so that girls could go to school instead of spending all their time carrying water to their village. She sat outside of her house, giving away cookies and asking for donations. She made and sold earrings. And she made a difference. She said that she learned to "use what you love to do what you want to in this world."
Another young speaker talked about feeling empowered. Others described the $14,000 that their school club raised through unusual fundraising events (there was something about teachers kissing a pig - I didn't really get all of the details). Most of the donations received by Free the Children are under $10, but because so very many kids are involved, the organization's goal is make $20 million in 2009. And I have to tell you, from first hand observation, that the kids who get involved with FTC, the ones we saw anyway, positively radiate poise and self-confidence. It was quite encouraging to see.
Free the Children's founder, Craig Kielburger, started the organization when he was 12 years old. He spoke dynamically and genuinely about the ways that kids can make a difference. Near the end of his talk, Craig said something like "We'd like to challenge all of you, adults and children, to make a difference in whatever way you can." And me, I thought, well, if we, the community of children's book bloggers, can help inspire more people to read with children, I think we'll make a positive difference in the world that way. Don't you think so?
Here's to making a difference.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.