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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Craig Kielburger is no ordinary 15-year-old. At the age of 12 he founded the international human-rights organization Free the Children, and in the past few years he has traveled the world and lectured its leaders on the horrors of child labor. Chapters of the Free the Children reach around the globe, and thousands of teenagers in the United States have answered the call.
Now Kielburger shares his inspirational story, and the story of the grassroots organization he founded, in a new book, Free the Children. This is a passionate and astounding memoir by the world's youngest and most visible activist, which certainly shows that "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Kielburger was first inspired by a newspaper article in April 1995 about the assassination of a 12-year-old Pakistani boy named Iqbal Masih, a freed child laborer and international rights activist. The youth was sold into slavery at the age of four for less than $15 and shackled to a carpet loom for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week. After six years, Iqbal escaped and began to campaign against the exploitation of children. But when Pakistani carpet manufacturers started to lose orders, he was shot dead.
Iqbal's fate is not unique. Free the Children reports that there are an estimated 250 million children around the world working in child servitude, with no chance to get an education, live a normal life, or even play. Physical and sexual abuse is commonplace. Millions of children, often doing the most menial and dangerous work, are exposed to deadly agricultural chemicals andotherhazards.
Kielburger writes, "The day I read about the murder of Iqbal Masih...I never imagined that my first steps to the library to find out more about the issue of child labor would lead me to the many thousands of steps, both in miles and knowledge, that I have traveled over the past three years."
Kielburger's journey has taken him to the slums and sweatshops of Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. He has had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with prime ministers, presidents, and spiritual leaders, including Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Queen Elizabeth, and the Dalai Lama.
The teen volunteers of Free the Children believe that the subject of child exploitation is simply too important to be left in the hands of adults. Free the Children is intended to awaken people — to urge us to do something to end exploitative child labor. It is a dramatic and moving testimony to the power of children and young adults to change the world.