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February 8, 2001 Students raise funds to build a school in Haiti




"First Person"

by Donna Pinsky

Melinda Chen, Maria Khan and I have formed a chapter of Free the Children, an international network of children helping children.

FTC is committed to empowering youth (people under 18), and letting them know that they have rights. It tries to bring an end to child exploitation, labour and bondage by petitioning governments to pass laws against it, and then making sure these laws are enforced.

More than 250 million children around the world have to work instead of going to school each day. Six hundred and fifty million children live in extreme poverty. It is estimated that every two seconds, a child dies from a poverty-related illness.

Children are forced to be slaves to pay off debts owed by their families. Often, these debts go back for generations. A child today may be working to pay off a debt incurred by his grandfather.

Because of the high interest rates, many of these debts can never be repaid. Often, parents are tricked by false promises of job training, when in reality, their children are simply put to work. This often occurs in countries with high levels of illiteracy, where parents can’t read the papers they must sign to get out of debt, papers that place their child in bonded labour.

Free the Children builds schools and training centres to help end the cycle of poverty. It provides money for small businesses, and provides farm tools, arable land, sewing machines and milk animals to needy families in Nicaragua and India.

This allows poor families to become self-sufficient so they will not have to depend on their children. The children receive such low wages that their work really isn’t a feasible way for a family to break free from the cycle of poverty.

Free the Children was started in 1995 by a 12-year-old Canadian boy named Craig Kielburger. He had been inspired by the child labour activist Iqbal Masih, who exposed the cruelties of child labour.

Free the Children is now an international charity with chapters all over the world. At Concordia, we hope to raise money for the construction of a school in Haiti. We chose this country because it is the poorest one in the western hemisphere, and the illiteracy rate there is around 60 per cent. These schools will be built by partner organizations in Haiti and they will be taught in Creole and French.

For more information about this organization, feel free to visit the website: http://www.freethechildren.org and if you would like to become an active member to help us raise the money ($8,300 CDN in all) for the school, please contact us at concordiaftc@hotmail.com

Donna Pinsky is a student in Accountancy, and is vice-president external of Concordia’s new chapter of Free the Children.