Skoll Foundation


Free The Children

Skoll Entrepreneur(s): Craig and Marc Kielburger
Award Year: 2007
Focus Area(s) Addressed: Education and Economic Opportunity

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In 1995, when Craig Kielburger was 12, he was shocked by a newspaper article about the murder of a child laborer turned child rights activist. Craig enlisted the help of his brother, Marc, and they established Free The Children (FTC), to help fight poverty, exploitation and powerlessness among their peers. The organization began as a group of classmates raising money and awareness, and evolved into an international phenomenon: hundreds of Youth in Action school chapters, a partnership with Oprah’s Angel Network and volunteer service trips to Asia, Africa and Central America. Craig never stopped spreading the message that children in the Western world could effect social change. Marc, a Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar and Oxford-educated lawyer, has helped the organization move from focusing strictly on international issues to bridging the gap between global and local needs.


  • Free The Children is an international charity and educational partner, with more than 2.3 million youth involved in innovative education and development programs in 45 countries.
  • Free The Children’s domestic programming is focused on youth engagement and inspiring young leaders to pursue positive change at home and abroad. They work with more than 4,000 schools and youth groups in North America and the UK, empowering young people to become global citizens. In the 2011/2012 school year, youth raised $6 million for various causes while volunteering more than 1.7 million hours.
  • They have built 650 schools, provided 55,000 children with education every day, provided $16 million worth of medical supplies around the world, 1 million people with clean water, and 30,000 women with economic self-sufficiency.
  • Local projects include We Day (160,000 attendees thus far), motivational speaking tours, awareness and fundraising campaigns, curriculum and educational resources, initiatives targeting underserved communities, programs aimed at building awareness about Aboriginal education, and more.
  • Free The Children’s signature youth empowerment event, We Day (, is a cutting-edge movement promoting active citizenship. This stadium-sized event connects speakers and performers with thousands of students and educators in an inspirational setting to learn about  local and global issues. Youth can’t buy a ticket. They have to earn their way in through service. The event kicks off We Act, a year-long series of actions, whereby students choose an issue and create positive change. In Canada, We Day is held in eight cities.
  • In the 2012/2013 school year, over 4,500 schools officially registered for We Act. Together, their actions added up to a lot of change:
    • $11 million fundraised for local and global causes
    • 4.5 million hours volunteered
    • 875,000 lbs of food collected
  • For the first time, We Day crossed the border into the U.S., as they welcomed We Day Seattle on March 27, 2013. Over the past five years, hundreds of thousands of students have attended We Day. Past speakers include the Dalai Lama, Former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, Martin Sheen, Sir Richard Branson, as well as recording artists, like Justin Bieber, Jason Mraz and Jennifer Hudson.
  • In eight countries, they work alongside those who strive every day to free themselves from poverty, exploitation, disease and thirst. Free The Children’s Adopt a Village development model is implemented in rural communities in Haiti, Kenya, rural China, India, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Ghana. Designed to meet the basic needs of developing communities, Adopt a Village is made up of five pillars crucial to sustainable community development: education, health, clean water and sanitation, alternative income and livelihood, and agriculture and food security.
  • Free the Children builds schools, libraries and teacher accommodations; support teacher salaries; and provide schools with furniture, uniforms and basic supplies.  In addition to traditional curriculum, their schools teach habits of healthy homes, business skills, and how to increase farming output.



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.