Free The Children

In 1995, 12-year-old Craig Kielburger founded Free The Children.
Today, it is the world's largest network of children helping children through education and development projects around the world, including providing access to clean water in developing countries.

Project 13, Free The Children

Toronto, Canada

I just really like helping people and so I really wanted to make the club happen so that I could do that.

Craig Kielburger, Founder | Free The Children

Lena has joined us from Parkdale Collegiate and has been working as part of a graduation goal, so that by the time she graduates in two years from now, to have enough money to support a clean water project. But it's her first time actually visiting the Free The Children office, so I wanted to introduce her to some of the team, so we have a chance to hear from her, some of the actions that she shared with me, which are pretty amazing.

Léna Baronikian, Student/Activist

We have been raising money for a clean water system.
What we need to do is try to get more people to think like how we're thinking.

The clean water system is, um, is like, positively changing their lives.

It would be completely different if this was happening in Canada.

We've already raised over $2,000 and we still have more to go.

Ok, we're focusing on Sri Lanka, right, and then Kenya.

A lot of the problems are the same in all of the countries that Free The Children has been making projects for.

Masai Mara, Kenya

Michelle Hambly, Free The Children

We'd driven all across Kenya, we went to South Africa, we went to Tanzania and different areas around Africa. But what stood out to us about this community, is when we came here, they didn't know about Free The Children or what we were all about. But when we talked about education for children and that sort of, the vibe that they got from us, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of community members gathered around, underneath a tree one day, and they said, "Come to our community. Let's work together." It's a semi-arid area, there was no clean water, there were mud structures for students to go to school, and the only water source was a very very dirty water source. So there were a lot of needs and the community was so passionate.

Enelerai Primary Public School

My name is Faith. I am in Grade 8.

A long time ago, I am using a lot of time to look for water. And most of the water was too dirty. And it was too long to get water. For 7 kilometers to reach the river.

Jane Marindany, Community Leader

As you know, we used to travel far to fetch water.
Now the water is nearer.
And we are very pleased.
Now we have clean drinking water.
You know, the benefit we get from this is educating our children.
Especially the girls.

Instead of going to developing countries, believing that we know what is right, we need to approach it with a humbleness of asking the question, "How do we work with you?" So the first time we ever built a school we were very proud of it. But girls didn't go. And it wasn't until we sat down with the community and drank tea and shared stories and spent time with elders, that they said, "Well the girls have to fulfill chores, they have to get water, that's the only source of water in our village. That's how we do the cooking, bathing, all the chores. So those girls have to walk two, three hours every way, each day, to go collect water." And only when we realized, well what if we brought a clean water system to the school, that we realized that they could fulfill their chores, and also receive an education at the same time.

The gutters collect dirty water.
The gutters bring the water to the drain pipe.
The drain brings water to the tank.
And from the tank you can get water through the outlet tap.

At school today, I spoke in front of the class and I was kind of imitating the teacher.
I spoke about the problems we faced with water.

Alice Malai, Faith's Mother

When I was young, I couldn't afford to go to school.
So I stayed at home, settled and had my kids.
And now they attend school.
I wanted to go to school.
I've seen a lot of changes take place.

Clothes are washed in this water.
Donkeys and cows drink from this river.
And they run through it as well.
We know this water's polluted.
But there's no other source, so we fetch it anyways.

During these times, I'd miss school.
I'd fetch water two or three times before going to school.

Grace Mosani, Faith's Grandmother

Only boys were allowed to attend school back when I was a young girl.
Girls were supposed to stay home and look after the cattle or other animals.
And now all my family goes to school.
Boys and girls equally.
I pray that Faith stays focused on her studies.

We've put this up ever since the children began school.
They'd been using notebooks from grade one to seven.
If Faith wants to look up something she can look for it up there.
It's a memento.

In my dreams...
I believe, one day, I will be president.

Is this Faith? Um, inspiration. She can change her life and she can change the lives of people around her. And the goal of becoming president is pretty amazing.

It also makes me want to make that opportunity possible for those girls, which just keeps me going.