Who did you help today

Two Brothers, Craig and Marc Kielburger, are my modern day heroes.
Tonight Marc is having dinner with Oprah Winfrey. The brothers’ US office is hosted by Oprah. They have had an audience with Mother Teresa. They have been featured on Oprah, CNN, CBC, BBC, and 60 Minutes. They are sought after speakers that have shared the podium a number of times with former U.S. president Bill Clinton, as well as with such world renowned leaders as Nelson Mandela, Queen Noor, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.
But that is not why they are heroes to me.

Take the fame (and the accolades mentioned below) away, and they are still my heroes: Two brothers under 30 years old. Many of their accomplishments began when they were well under 20. In fact, they began to change the world when they were 11 and 13 years of age.

Craig and Marc are the founders of Me to We and Free the Children, the largest organization in the world of children helping children. They inspire kids to “Be the Change”, to make a meaningful difference in the world… and their army of inspired kids have benefited over 1/2 a million needy people in the world… WOW!

Helping Others
I heard Marc speak (for the second time) on Friday. After his talk, he spoke with students and teachers from our school. Our Me to We club is raising money for Free the Children. Under the direction of a teacher, Sarah, our students have raised over $9,000 so far. My 24 Hour Famine/Sleep-Over at the school will raise another 2-3 thousand, and yet another teacher Chris will make at least that much with Freezie sales as the weather warms up.

Last year we bought goats to give families an income and thus help students go to school. This year we are raising money to build a school in Sierra Leone. Sarah wanted to raise between 10 and 15 thousand. Thanks to countless students, their families and all of our staff, it looks like we will surpass that!

In the service of others we learn meaningful lessons ourselves. Mark spoke of developing empathy in kids. In so doing, he wondered if standardized testing ‘taught’ our kids anything meaningful? When do they learn about empathy and love?

They learn this from being in the servicing of others. Listening to Marc, a true hero, has taught me something very valuable.

Helping Me, and My Family
Every night when I put my kids to bed I ask them a question… “What was your favorite part of the day?” My kids will often offer up a list. My oldest daughter is very compassionate, she makes an effort to mention at least one event in which my wife or I are in one of her favorite parts of the day. My younger daughter meanders a bit… she is still learning… sometimes she has a list, sometimes her favorite is tempered with, “But you know what I didn’t like about today?”

When I heard Mark speak, I wondered about another question I have stopped asking: “What did you learn today?” I also thought of the question my friend Mike asks his (older) kids: “What questions did you ask today?” … this is a better question than ‘what did you learn?’, but not one that inspires meaningful answers from my Grade 2 child… even less from my preschooler. After listening to mark, I decided on a new question:

“Who did you help today?”

It is simple. It inspires empathy. It shows what we truly value… and I look forward to the day when my daughters ‘favorite part of the day’ is also the answer to ‘who did you help today’.

My Heroes

Thanks for the inspiration Mark!

Please take the time to find out more about my heroes. Or better yet, GET INVOLVED !

Marc is a Harvard graduate and Rhodes Scholar, who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University. He, “has been recognized for his vision and leadership with Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 award and has received an Ashoka Fellowship for his innovation and commitment to social change. He is the youngest person ever to be awarded the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship and is the recipient of an honorary doctorate of education from Nipissing University for his work in leadership development. Marc has been honoured as a 2007 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.”

Craig “has received many awards for his work, including the Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award, the World Economic Forum GLT Award, the Roosevelt Freedom Medal, the Governor General’s Medal of Meritorious Service, the Human Rights Award from the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations and the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child, also known as the Children’s Nobel Prize.” Oh, and Craig is also a 2002 and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize nominee. He is a Megastar. (Read this last link to learn about Craig’s inspiration, and a hero in his own right, Iqbal Masih 1982-1995.)

Free the Children has recently been awarded one of ten Million-Dollar Awards from the Skoll Foundation.

Images by carf on flickr. Imprisoned… & Children of the World Unite – I (see comments in my reflection)

Originally posted: April 24th, 2007

Reflection upon re-reading and re-posting:

Natalie Barrington contacted me via my online contact form 3 days ago regarding this post:

I am writing on behalf of Pearson Education Canada, a textbook publisher. We are developing a grade 8 language arts textbook and would like to reprint one of your blogs.

I’m interested in seeing their letter that, “will include the details of our publication, and any changes we wish to make.” I wonder how my blog was found and selected for this? Regardless, it is an honour to have one of my posts recognized in this way.

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For a long time I asked my kids, “Who did you help today?” before bed. It was only a matter of weeks before my oldest daughter’s ‘favorite part of the day’ was also the answer to ‘who did you help today’… and I did feel very proud of her. My youngest daughter went for months where she insisted I ask her the two questions, or I’d hear, “Daaa-Deee! Aren’t you forgetting something!” I still ask these questions, but not every day.

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Comments from the original post

  1. A most important work being done by Craig and Marc, one of many done to change the lives of children, both the privileged and the underprivileged. I am happy our images illustrating this article could be used in support of such noble causes.My own organization, the Children At Risk Foundation – CARF has been helping street children and other children at risk in Brazil for the last 14 years, a programme also recognized by Ashoka when I was nominated to their fellowship in 2000. Our educational work with the privileged children in developed countries who are active supporters of our programmes in Brazil is as important as the work being done in Brazil with the funding these conscious kids manage to raise for us.As your title emphasizes; raising empathy.

    For many more images illustrating the work done by CARF, please feel free to visit our Photo Galleries with more than 2.740 images and texts. If you would also like to support our work with street children and other children at risk, feel free to use our Changemakers Campaign Page

    In Peace,

    Gregory J. Smith, Social Entrepreneur and Founder, Children At Risk Foundation – CARF

  2. Thanks Gregory,
    Your photos are wonderful, and I am inspired by the work your organization is doing in Brazil. Your photos bring needy children to life, and humanize the need to be the change/ to be a ‘changemaker’. I hope that in some small way, the photos you share with me here will encourage others to join Free the Children or CARF’s Changmaker Campaign.


    Here is “Still shining…” another wonderful photo in Gregory/carf’s collection…it warms my heart.