Be the change

Free the Children encourages youth to advocate for social justice

The charity Free the Children focuses on four pillars of sustainability: eductation, health, water/sanitation ad alterative income. Supplied

Many people may know about Free the Children, the largest global network of children helping children through education, as a result of We Day.

More than 16,000 young Manitobans attended We Day, an FTC-based offshoot, at the MTS Centre last November. We Day 2011 was the first function of its kind to be held in Winnipeg. Past locales have included Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Showcasing a variety of celebrity performers and speakers (Al Gore, Mia Farrow and Hedley, to name a few), the high-energy event’s aim was to inspire a younger generation to realize their potential in advocating for human rights.

According to Free the Children’s website, “with more than one million young people involved in programs in 45 countries,” Free the Children focuses on four pillars of sustainability: education, health, water/sanitation and alternative income, in countries overseas.

Since the star-studded event in Winnipeg, many We Day attendees have taken action implementing Adopt-a-Village programs within their schools, or participating in 24-hour Vows of Silence in solidarity with those that have been silenced by poverty.

Marianne Orlikow, a Grade 12 student at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate, created an FTC group at her school this past September. She was inspired by a volunteer trip she took with the organization to Kenya.

“What I think is so special about Free the Children is that, as opposed to charity, they give people the tools they need to help break themselves out of the cycle of poverty,” Orlikow says.

Orlikow’s group is fundraising towards building a school with FTC in Kenya. On Jan. 21, local acts Ferriswheels, A Waste Odyssey and Almost Birds headline a concert at the Park Theatre to benefit the cause. Tickets for the show are $10 in advance or $15 at the door and are available at the venue.

Older students have also been inspired to “be the change.” The recent addition of a Free the Children chapter at the University of Winnipeg this past October has been successful in its early stages.

Having raised about $3,000 (towards a goal of $25,000) to help with development projects in rural India, Matthew Parent is among the group of 30 members that are passionate about social justice.

“Here in Canada, we have enormous amounts of wealth and resources,” Parent says. “If we say that we are all one human race, all unified as global citizens, then it is necessary that we share some of our wealth.”

Free the Children proves that there are no age restrictions when one wants to make a difference. After all, a particularly philanthropic 12-year-old, Craig Kielburger, founded the charity back in 1995.

“It’s all about empowering young people, and showing them that they are capable of making sustainable change,” Orlikow says.

To learn more about Free the Children, visit U of W’s FTC chapter always welcomes new members, especially those with any graphic design experience. Email [email protected] for more information.

Published in Volume 66, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 18, 2012)

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