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So You Want to Change the World?

Would you like to change the world? Then why not give it a try? That's what Craig Kielburger did.

In 1995, when Kielburger was 12-years-old, he learned that 250 million children around the world worked each day in terrible conditions. Some of these children are as young as age 4.

Kielburger was so shocked that he and some of his friends started a group called Free the Children. They wanted to tell the world about the cruelty child workers face. That group eventually influenced the Canadian city of Toronto, Ontario, to pass a law protecting children.

Today, Free the Children is the only human rights organization run by kids. It has 100,000 children in more than 35 countries working for change. Oprah Winfrey's charitable group and several companies have joined Free the Children to help build 300 schools in poor countries. Free the Children has shipped more than $2.5 million in medical supplies to health clinics in developing nations.

“All we have to do is believe that we can make a difference, and we will,” Kielburger said.

Blueprint for Action

Kielburger and his brother, Marc, wrote a book, called Take Action! A Guide to Active Citizenship. It gives kids a head start in becoming social activists, people who work for social change.

This book shows kids how to organize for action, raise money, and influence government leaders. It also explains how to do research, motivate people, and speak in public.

Make a Difference

“As young people, it is both our right and responsibility to use [our] talents to help find solutions to problems affecting our world,” Kielburger writes.

How can you make a difference? The following tips from Kielburger's book should help.

Pick an issue that involves injustice. When choosing an issue, start small. If you want to rid the world of hunger, begin by helping people in your community who do not have enough to eat.

Research the issue, using resources like a public library and the Internet. Read newspaper and magazine articles on the issue.

Assemble a team of kids who also want to help solve the problem. Meet with the group to decide on a goal and a plan of action. For example, the group might decide to collect food for a local food bank. Make a list of people in the community who might be helpful.

Have Fun

The last step, Kielburger says, is to have fun. Throw a pizza party, for example, but always keep in mind the task at hand.

“At times you may feel overwhelmed and may even run into some opposition,” Kielburger writes. “When this happens, try to remember why you got involved in the first place. Your goal is to . . . make a difference.”

He said success depends on the group's commitment to solving the problem.

“It does not matter where you live or how old you are,” Kielburger writes. “Your contributions are important and can help promote change.”