Brothers inspire business leaders

Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of Free the Children, were in Surrey Thursday

Two famous brothers known for inspiring youth to be the change they want to see in the world addressed about 500 captains of industry in Surrey this week.

In 1995, at the tender age of 12, Craig Kielburger co-founded the Free the Children, a movement which has since provided more than 650 schools and one million people around the globe with access to clean water, health care and sanitation.

Kielburger and his brother Marc, who also helped create Free the Children, were in Surrey Thursday speaking to about 500 people attending this year’s Surrey Regional Economic Summit.

Craig Kielburger said he was moved to start the movement when he saw a headline in a newspaper stating, “Battled child labour boy, 12, murdered.”

The story told of  Iqubal Masih, a former rug factory slave who became an international activist against child labour, and was later shot and killed near his Pakistan home.

Craig, a Toronto native, got 11 friends together and they called themselves the “Group of 12, 12-year-olds” for two days until someone turned 13.

Then they called their movement Free the Children.

The group noted that people in general are able to donate  five to 10 per cent of their money or time to charity. Their challenge was to figure out a way to free up the other 90 to 95 per cent of people’s time and money.

The youth created what they call “social enterprises,” or companies designed to make profits to fund their causes.

They urged the group at the summit to rethink what it is they do as a corporation.

“If you exist as a business, you help people,” Marc Kielburger said, adding it benefits companies to keep that fact in the forefront of their employees’ minds.

“Remind people why they do what they do,” he said.  “It doesn’t cost you a dime.”

The two brothers recalled the time they were helping build a school in a Third World country when rain clouds appeared. It didn’t look like they would finish before the storm started.

A woman they were with said she would call for the Minga. She went outside and yelled, “Tomorrow is the minga.”

The two brothers were confused, yet honoured the gesture, having no idea what it meant.

The next day, the entire community showed up and began working on the school.

The minga, the woman said, means, “Coming together of the community for the benefit of all.”

Then she asked “what’s your word for it?”

The Kielburgers, well educated men now, were dumbfounded and could not  think of one.

Today they encourage business leaders to create a culture of gratitude in their firms.

“Thank every single person included in the organization,” Craig Kielburger said, adding that’s why they created “We Day,” an event to thank every young person involved in volunteering.

He also enocouraged business owners to think long term.

“We know that what we do will never be achieved in our lifetime,” Craig Kielburger said, citing the end of world hunger is an example. The fact results won’t be seen right away doesn’t make it any less important, he said.

@diakiw