Children’s advocate to speak at YCLA

Organizers of the 2017 Young Caymanian Leadership Award on Tuesday announced keynote speaker Craig Kielburger, international charity figure and best-selling author, will address the Nov. 4 ceremony on “A New Generation of Leadership.”

From Thornhill, Ontario, Mr. Kielburger, 37, founded his first charity at the age of 12, focused on “providing youth with tools to help change the world,” according to a press release from the Young Caymanian Leaders Foundation.

According to a 2005 profile on the University of Colorado’s “Beyond Intractability” website, Mr. Kielburger in 1995 saw a Toronto Star story about a murdered Pakistani who had been forced at the age of 4 into bonded labor in a carpet factory, working 12 hours per day, six days per week.

Escaping the sweat shop, Iqbal Masih toured the country with a human rights group, persuading child laborers to leave exploitative employers and adults to demand improved working conditions.

He gained a reputation for passionate advocacy, according to Beyond Intractability, speaking in Sweden, the U.S. and other countries. In 1994, Mr. Masih received the Reebok Human Rights Award.

At the same time, however, he began to receive death threats and, in 1995 at the age of 12, while on a visit to Pakistan, was shot to death while riding his bicycle. No arrests were made.

Mr. Kielburger, who was 12 at the time, and a group of pre-teens subsequently started “Kids Can Free the Children” – later renamed “Free The Children” – which petitioned Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao to release imprisoned child labor activist Kailash Satyarthi, who went on to win the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Canadian has attracted international media attention with features on “60 Minutes” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and has written 11 books, eight with his brother Marc, about his charity work.

A younger Craig Kielburger, on one of his overseas trips, talks to a child laborer who had never been to school.

The pair have developed their original “Free the Children” effort into “WE,” a family of like-minded organizations comprising “WE Charity”; “ME to WE,” a social enterprise that creates socially conscious products and experiences to help support the charity: and “WE Day,” filling stadiums to celebrate social good.

Me to We donates half its profits to Free the Children by selling socially conscious products and services. Investing the other half back into the enterprise.

The brothers’ 2004 book “Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World,” explained their philosophy of volunteerism, service to others and social involvement, boasting contributions from Ms. Winfrey, Richard Gere, Jane Goodall and Desmond Tutu.

Google Books says the volume “shows that the positive actions we take in our everyday lives can significantly improve the world around us,” illustrating “that a more fulfilling path is available to anyone willing to work for it.”

In 2008, Mr. Kielburger and his brother were presented with the Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award for creating Me to We.

According to YCLA organizers, Mr. Kielburger has sat with “some of the greatest spiritual, political and social leaders of our time,” including Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Along the way, he says, he discovered a profound truth: real fulfillment starts with having the courage to reach out and help others.

“It all begins when we make the shift from ‘me’ to ‘we,’” Mr. Kielburger says. In his YCLA speech, organizers say, he will expand on his “Me to We” philosophy.

“The Young Caymanian Leadership Awards program supports youth who drive change and serve as leaders in their local communities,” Mr. Kielburger says. “As an organization that empowers youth to better the world, WE is honored to work with YCLA to provide young people with the tools and opportunity to create meaningful impact in their communities and beyond.”

The YCLA selection committee will announce the 17th annual Young Caymanian of the Year – drawn from finalists Alice Ramos, Faith Gealey, Matt Brown, Stacie Sybersma and Yentel McGaw – at a 6:00 Kimpton Seafire Hotel gathering, streamed live on Facebook, YouTube, Cayman Life TV and Logic Channel 33.

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