100 Percent Volunteer-Driven Activism (1995–2003) During our earliest years, we believed activismwas the only way to achieve change. Our very young team of volunteers tirelessly lobbied governments, raised funds for global projects to free child slaves, ran letter-writing campaigns and hand-stapled curriculummaterials for our small but growing group of school partners. We had no paid staff, wanting to put every dollar raised toward our charity’s mission. With no money to spare for office space, the Kielburgers donated the use of their family home; parents Fred and Theresa moved out to live with grandparents while continuing to cover the bills. Our volunteer staff lived and worked together in the suburban house, making phone calls and sending faxes around the clock, while happily sharing meals and chores. We soon discovered, however, that many of our early victories were short-lived, as children we worked to free from slavery were returned to intolerable forced-labor conditions. Why? Because we had not managed to alter the root cause of their plight: extreme poverty. From these experiences came the emerging realization that activism is not so effective on its own. This was a tough reality to face, but from that came important learnings that would help guide us into our next phase.
Support for employees D D Free pizza and Kraft Dinner fuel long hours. D D Slowly begin to hire employees with outside experience to support the organization’s growth. D D New employees quickly make strong connections to co-workers. The feeling of being with “their people” keeps the team going through tough challenges.
Milestones D D Justice-seeking 12-year-old activists establish Free The Children. D D Launch of summer youth conferences (which would become Take Action Camp). D D First learning and service trips to Kenya, India, Nicaragua, Thailand, Ecuador, Arizona and Mexico. D D School-building begins in in Nicaragua, Kenya and Ecuador. D D Development work begins in Haiti, India, Tanzania, rural China and Ghana.
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