Free The Children (FTC) is a Toronto, Canada-based children's charity defining its principal objective as the creation of "programs to help free children from exploitation and abuse … [and] to free young people from the idea that they are powerless to bring about positive social change …" Founded in 1996 by then-12-year-old Canadian activist Craig Kielburger, FTC today claims a membership of 100,000 people in more than 35 countries and operates branch offices in Canada, the United States, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Free The Children claims to have built, repaired, or outfitted some 400 schools in 23 developing countries since its inception. It further claims to have shipped more than 200,000 school and health kits to children in nearly 40 developing countries, "providing them with the necessary supplies to go to school and remain healthy." These kits are collected and sent abroad by children in Canada and the United States. FTC also sponsors what it calls a "TAKE ACTION!" tour that sends teenagers trained as motivational speakers to various schools in order to "inspire students to positive social action through multi-media technology, spoken word, and moving personal stories." "At the end of the presentation," says FTC, "the students [are] encouraged to take action on one or more of a number of suggested concrete projects which will facilitate their social involvement."
Nominated three times (in 2002, 2003, and 2004) for the Nobel Peace Prize, FTC claims to have served as the lead NGO partner for the United Nations Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict; lobbied corporations "to adopt standard labeling for child-labor-free products"; "worked with the Canadian government to pass a law to prosecute Canadians who travel overseas to sexually exploit children"; "worked with the Brazilian government to allocate an additional $1 million for programs to help support child laborers"; "implemented alternative income projects helping more than 20,000 people"; "shipped $9 million … in essential medical supplies to 40 countries"; "provided healthcare centers and community funding helping 500,000 people"; and "helped 125,000 people by providing access to clean water and improved sanitation."
FTC characterizes globalization as a form of American exploitation that "has helped to exacerbate wars in many developing countries—wars that have increasingly involved children." According to FTC, the existence of war can ascribed to three main culprits: developed nations, free markets, and globalization."
FTC claims that child poverty is rampant in the United States "due to cuts in programs for low-income children. ... Child poverty can be alleviated for $45 billion. This is less than the amount of money given in annual tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans during the 1980s and 1990s."
The philanthropist Eva Haller serves as President of the U.S. chapter of FTC. In 2001, FTC founder Craig Kielburger was appointed Co-Chair of the Commission on Globalization, where he served alongside George Soros, founder of the Open Society Institute. That same year, Kielburger was awarded the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF), whose President, David Krieger, is an Honorary Advisor of FTC. Craig Kielburger's brother Marc serves as the Director of FTC and presides over the organization's Youth Advisory Council.
FTC's Honorary Advisors also include, among others, former news anchor Walter Cronkite; Children’s Defense Fund founder Marion Wright Edelman; actor Richard Gere; primatologist Jane Goodall; David Krieger; Queen Noor of Jordan; historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.; and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.