A 12-year old boy changed the world? Really? Yes, really. When Craig Kielburger was just 12 years old, his attention was grabbed when he saw a headline in the Toronto Star newspaper.

“Battled child labour, boy, 12, murdered.”

He read on, learning that this young Pakistani boy – the same age as him – had been forced to work in a carpet factory from the age of four. He had been killed for standing up for himself and for his fight against child labour.

Craig was shocked and saddened. He had to do something about this. But what? What could a twelve year old boy do?

When he asked his mum for help, she was there to listen.

She helped him engage his school in the issue of child labour. She encouraged him to collect a 3,000 signature petition to the Indian Prime Minister to release the imprisoned child labour activist, Kailash Satyarthi (who later went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize).

And she helped organise for Craig to go on a trip to India with a family friend to see the poor conditions for himself.

The rest is history.

“Together, we can make a world of difference.” – Craig Kielburger.

Craig went on to co-found Free the Children with his brother, an international development and youth empowerment organisation. He also created We Day, a once-a-year empowerment event for young people, which I am lucky enough to have been to on two occasions.

Although Craig’s story of how a boy changed the world is pretty off-the-scale amazing, it provides some good insights.

Little ideas can lead to making a big difference.

Craig’s idea to help people started small. It was the spark of compassion, a reaction to a piece of news. He had no idea where it would lead.

As parents, we can encourage our children to help others, whatever their age or in whatever capacity. Start small and have faith in the fact that the idea may grow over time.

When a child expresses a wish to help others, we need to listen and take them seriously.

Craig’s mum listened. Imagine if she hadn’t? It is in this initial moment, when interest has been shown about an issue or some kind of social injustice, that our role as parents is so critical. A positive reaction to our children might inspire them to further their interest.

With our help, children can change the world…

“If we are to reach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with children.” — Mahatma Gandhi

We owe it to them to encourage them to do so. The future belongs to them. They have the imagination, the energy and the belief to make a difference. And every little difference made is a contribution.

Children are kind and are often so horrified by suffering when they learn about it, they want to take some action.

But they need our help.

To educate them about those causes they may care about. To lead them to experience the vital ingredient in making change: empathy. They need our help to increase their engagement, inspire and encourage them. And crucially, they need us to listen.

As I heard Craig and his brother recently chant on stage at We Day UK, accompanied by a sea of 12,000 children, parents and teachers, “Together, we change the world.”

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