- Created on Monday, 17 March 2014 14:29
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By AMBER-LYNE BRICKER
“When you extend yourself you enrich the lives of those around you.” Dan Patterson, president of Niagara College said in his welcoming speech to Craig Kielburger last Thursday.
Kielburger visited the college to speak about campus and community leadership, and driving global change.
The event was free thanks to Niagara College’s Centre for Student Engagement and Leadership and was attended not only by students from the college and Brock University, but faculty, high school students and the general public interested in hearing Kielburger’s address.
“I hope one of the things you take from Craig’s address is the important of getting involved, volunteering and helping others succeed.” Patterson said before inviting Kielburger to the stage.
Kielburger thanked everyone who made the event possible and the 20 students who visited Nicaragua during reading week this year to help build a school.
“How many other colleges can say they have a 40 acre winery and a microbrewery at their college?” Kielburger said, “This is obviously the fun college.”
Kielburger grew up in Thornhill, Ont where he founded Free The Children at age 12 all because of a single headline he saw in The Toronto Star.
The story, titled “Battle Child Labour Boy 12 Murdered”, was about a young boy whose parents sold him into slavery for less then six dollars.
“I remember looking at my life at that point and thinking that I had thought slavery had always ended with the railroad to Canada,” Kielburger said, “I couldn’t imagine that in our world we could still buy and sell a human being.”
He took that paper to school and addressed the class, seeking help from his fellow peers to save children from slavery. Free The Children was born out of twelve students trying to get the message out from a tiny garage.
For several months they did this and in September Kielburger pitched the idea of him going backpacking across Asia to his parents. They said no at first and Kielburger realized his only change at going would be persistence.
After finding a chaperone willing to go and talking to some agencies in Asia who would be willing to host him, his parents finally agreed and he went off on an adventure that changed his life.
In the beginning Free The Children would bring kids home to their families, only to find that parents were terrified they would have to resell their children because of debts.
So they started working with communities to build schools to educate the young children in these communities, only to come back a few months later to notice a lot of the girls weren’t there, they were instead grabbing dirty water to bring home to their families. So they starting bringing clean water in, and then the kids weren’t physically well so they brought in food and medical supplies.
The reason many of initiatives like this fail is because the small communities cannot afford to sustain them, so Keilburger helped them to create small businesses to keep it all going years from now.
Kielburger went on to talk about the many journeys he’s been on overseas, where he’s experienced some of the most uplifting and life changing moments.
Me to We was born out of such an experience in Ecuador where they faced a problem they were struggling to solve.
Craig Kielburger and his brother Marc Kielburger travelled to a tiny village by pack mule and were to build a school in two weeks. After facing some unforeseen challenges the brothers went to the chief leader and told her they would be unable to finish the school right now, but they would return at a later date.
The chief leader walked out of her hut and told her tiny village, “Tomorrow, there will be a ‘minga'.”
The very next day hundreds of people, some from villages six hours away whose children would never benefit from this school, were helping to lay the foundation for the building.
The chief later explained to the brothers that a ‘minga’ was a coming together for the collective good.
That maybe the good they’ve done today will not touch them later on in life, but their great grandchild may meet Craig Kielburger’s great grandchild and this kind act will cause a ripple through time and come back later on their offspring.
The chief asked the brothers what the word was in their language for ‘minga’.
The volunteers began to scramble to find a word because it is a huge insult to keep the chief waiting, the chief asked a question.
Kielburger, after they had gone through a few words that really didn’t work said, “Again we were pressed, we couldn’t keep the chief waiting, we had to go quickly and I blurted out a word and I was like you know in our culture we have these moments that are like…our ‘minga’ when everyone joins in and they come together it’s spontaneous, it’s like we do these like, they’re called riots for good.”
The brothers decided to try and create it’s meaning in our world, a movement of people who come together for the greater good. Where, when the call goes out people respond as they did in Ecuador and that is how Me to We was born.
Me to We is held all over the world and it’s an event you cannot buy a ticket for, students need to earn their way by inserting themselves in the community and changing it a little bit at a time.
“I love that bottle water is banned on campus, I love that you all share your talents with to better the community and I love that you roll up your sleeves and go halfway around the world to change someone’s life.” Craig Kielburger said about Niagara College’s effort to make a change.
Before Nelson Mandela passed Craig Kielburger was lucky enough to speak with him and ask him about what the secret to leadership was.
“He said that he led his flock from behind. Our role in life isn’t supposed to try and lead, it’s to gently inspire and hope that people will follow,” Craig Kielburger said, “With great humility I leave you with message. The secret to leadership is people doing what they do, and hope that people with join.”