Change the world

free-the-childrenIs it too idealistic to think that a group of 13-year-olds can change the world?

Heffley Creek Elementary students Jaide Foster and Elisabeth Avery didn’t think so. Avery and Foster are heading a group called Free the Children Student Action Group (FCSAG) to support a program to help families in Kenya.

In fact, Avery and Foster were inspired by a young man who proved you can be a world changer no matter your age.

Ontarian Craig Kielburger was also in Grade 7 when he read an article about a Pakistani boy, a child labourer, who was murdered after speaking up about his predicament. At the time, the story struck a chord in Kielburger as he and the boy were the same age. Despite people telling him he was too young and had to wait, Kielburger mobilized his Grade 7 class to do something about social injustices to children in the developing world.

At 12, Kielburger founded Free The Children, a youth-driven children’s charity. Now 27, he continues to run the organization with his brother and fellow activist Marc Kielburger. Since inception and with the help of Youth in Action groups, Free The Children has helped build over 500 schools and spearheaded over 25,000 alternative income projects that provide sustainable income for families.

The organization aims to show that children everywhere can do something right now to help children in other parts of the world who suffer daily from poverty and exploitation. As young people act against injustices and see results, they’re empowered and freed from the belief that they’re too young to impact the world.

The Kielburgers have also started Me to We, Free The Children’s sister organization, that educates North American children on how to make sustainable choices in their daily lives.

Heffley Creek Elementary’s Grade 7 class attended a Me to We conference last September where they heard the Kielburgers speak along with other well-known humanitarians and social change icons like Jane Goodall, Mia Farrow and the Dalai Lama.

“We learned how privileged we are and how much other people around the world need our help,” said Foster, prompting them to start their own local movement.

Parents and teachers have always taught Avery to help those in need. However, the Me to We conference made her understand how to be directly involved, especially after learning that kids her age in other countries live on no more than a dollar a day. “I think it’s good for students to be involved so they understand what’s going on (in other parts of the world),” she said.

The group is involved in 10by10, a Free The Children program that donates $10 on behalf of individuals who pledge to make 10 commitments. One of their commitments is helping out the local food bank.

As Craig Kielburger heads over to Haiti to help in the rehabilitation efforts, Heffley Creek Elementary’s Grade 6/7 class is doing their part on this side of the world to make children’s lives better.

The Student Action Group will hold a bake sale fundraiser and weekly popcorn nights for an alternative income project in Kenya. Alternative income projects purchase items like sewing machines or farm animals to provide income for families so children don’t have to work and can go to school instead, explained Foster. The fundraiser will be held in conjunction with the Heffley Creek Elementary’s Family Fun Night and will be held sometime after spring break in March.

If you’d like to be involved, you can donate or purchase baked goods during the event. Contact Heffley Creek Elementary at 250-578-7227.

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