Kids doing work unsafe for adults

Renowned anti-child labor activist Craig Kielburger kicked off the Industrial Accident and Prevention Association's annual conference April  in Toronto, Canada. The IAPA is no child; the national organization turns 90 this year.

At 24, Kielburger has been a tireless advocate to end child labor literally half his life. He began his quest to free children from child labor at the age of 12 after reading a 1995 newspaper article about the murder of a child laborer turned child-rights activist.

Sadly, the fight to end child labor is far from over. There are still a whopping 211 million child laborers today, some even working in mines that are unsafe for adults to work in. An average of 22,000 children are killed in workplace accidents worldwide each year.

Kielburger urged employees and corporations to give back to their local communities. He added that volunteer work can boost morale on the job. "A healthy workplace is one where employees can give back to the community," Kielburger explained. Several companies including Microsoft and Home Depot give employees paid time off to volunteer in the community.

He also passed on a message told to him by the late Mother Teresa: "we can do no great things, but we can do small things with great love."

Kielburger also illustrated his point with a story from when he and members of his Free The Children organization were building a school in rural Ecuador. Time was running out to complete the school. He turned to the village elder with his concerned, to which she replied (via a translator), "no problem, I'll call a minga."

The next day, hundreds of people arrived to help finish the building, asking for nothing in return. Amazed, Kielburger went to the elder and asked what exactly a minga was. The elder explained that a minga is a time when "everyone comes together for the collective good of the community." The translator struggled to explain this, and frustrated, finally asked Kielburger what the equivalent word was in English.

Kielburger related that he and his mates had difficulty thinking of an appropriate word in English. 'Barn raising' came to mind, but seemed a little outdated in 21st century society. The best answer they could come up with was, "kind of like a riot, but for good!"

The IAPA Health & Safety Canada 2007 Conference and Trade Show continues through Wednesday in Toronto.

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