On Feb. 11, Laurier welcomed brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger. The brothers presented about leadership and social change at Laurier’s leadership conference entitled HawkTalk+2017. The Kielburger brothers are the founders of Me to We, an organization committed to empowering people to change the world, shifting from “me” thinking to “we” acting.
This event was organized by the Society, Culture and Environment Students Association through a partnership with the Leadership Students Association. All proceeds were donated to the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence Project.
In 2013, major roof leaks caused significant and costly damage to the Mohawk Institute Residential School building. The Save the Evidence campaign was launched to raise funds for the renovations and repairs necessary to ensure the dark history of residential schools in Canada is never forgotten.
When Craig and Marc were in middle school, international travel experiences changed their lives. At 13, Marc travelled to the slums of Jamaica to volunteer with leprosy patients. Then he participated in a volunteer trip after his first year of university to teach English to street children in Bangkok and Thailand, and volunteered at an AIDS hospice. His younger brother Craig travelled to South Asia at 12 to meet children labouring in factories and kilns and those living on the streets.
These experiences were the spark of Me to We. The brothers created the organization to encourage other youth to participate in life-changing volunteer trips.
Me to We provides people living in developing countries with access to education, healthcare, water, food, and other resources. They have provided millions of students with life-changing opportunities to take part in volunteer trips in eight different countries: Kenya, China, Nicaragua, Ghana, Arizona-Mexico, Ecuador, India and Tanzania.
“What we’ve learned over the years is a five-pillar development model. That’s now operational and has touched countries all around the world,” said Craig. “We work in communities on average five years until that community is economically self-sustained, and we phase out with the community able to maintain, sustain, and continue to move forward in empowerment.”
In the community of Udawad, India, two wells were rehabilitated in 2014, providing clean drinking water to over 800 families. The maternity wing at Baraka Health Clinic in Kenya has provided more than 3,000 mothers with pre- and post-natal care, and has helped deliver 213 healthy babies in the last two years. This year, Oleleshwa Farm in Kenya expanded to include 200 acres of land and 12 greenhouses, increasing its capacity to support student lunch programs. To date, the farm has provided more than two million meals.
In addition to these volunteer trips, Me to We has employed 1,500 women full-time in Kenya to make beaded products. These women make enough money to send their children to school. A popular item among these handmade accessories are Rafiki bracelets. Rafiki means friend in Swahili. Last year, Me to We sold one million of these bracelets in 12,000 retail stores.
Throughout the presentation, Craig and Marc shared inspiring stories of courageous individuals who stood up against social injustices. Some of these people were well-known idols such as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, and some were not at all famous. They were just people, some even children, that saw an injustice and refused to stay silent, proving that anyone can make a difference. The Kielburger brothers believe that young people are the leaders of tomorrow.