Not since Anne Frank has a child so effectively borne witness to the madness of adult reality. This volume retains the language and voice of 15-year-old Kielburger, its young co-author, while its subject matter achieves the status of an important work on grassroots political organization and international human rights. Inspired at the age of 12 by a newspaper article about the assassination of Iqbal Masih, a freed child laborer and international rights activist from Pakistan who was reported also to be 12 years old at the time of his death. Kielburger, a Canadian, began to research the issue of child labor in South Asia. He enlisted the help of schoolmates and began spreading the word about conditions in factories in such distant countries as India, Pakistan, and Thailand. Free the Children, which he founded, grew into an internationally recognized organization and has raised awareness of labor conditions in South Asia as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cause. Kielburger convinced his parents to allow him to travel to South Asia accompanied only by a young activist named Alam. He returned with reports of children beaten by their masters; hung upside down by their feet for punishment; poisoned in fireworks factories. He told of wounds from carpet knives dipped in hot oil or cauterized with match chemicals; of both boys and girls sold into prostitution at very young ages; of 18-hour workdays; and of lives cut off from future possibilities. Kielburger's message is ultimately one of hope that the youth of South Asia may be set free from their inhuman labor. He hopes equally that the youth of the industrialized world will be set free from feeling they are cut off from the ability to get involved and make real changes in the world in which they live.
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