Me To We: A Philosophy

By Craig and Marc Kielburger

On an ordinary Wednesday morning more than ten years ago, we first had our eyes opened to the worldwide problem of child labour. Craig - then 12 years old - was faced with a front page headline that would have a profound effect on his perception of the world: "Battled child labor, boy, 12, murdered." Learning about the life and suspicious death of child rights activist Iqbal Masih launched a journey of discovery that led to the founding of Free The Children, and would eventually take us around the world.

Time and time again we've seen people - often young children - in environments of extreme poverty. From Asia to the Caribbean, Africa to South America, millions of people are the victims of unjust labour practices.

Yet in our travels to some of the world's extremes of wealth and poverty, we've continually found that people who have next to nothing often feel a greater sense of interpersonal fulfillment than those who boast material wealth.

Amid the worst conditions of exploitation and abuse of power, we've seen communities with unshakable bonds and individuals forming profound and intimate connections.

We began to shape this observation into an overarching philosophy - we call it Me to We.

It seems to happen everywhere. In Thailand, we met a street girl who took the orange we gave her and, without hesitation, divided it up between her friends. On a hot day in Jamaica, we saw homeless boys sharing their scarce supplies of cold juice, rather than keep them to themselves. We found families who’d had their lives devastated by civil war in Sierra Leone coming together for the purpose of survival. Time and time again, we witnessed people in dire need instinctively placing the greater good over their immediate needs.

We came to discover that real generosity transcends cultures and geography. It means extending yourself even when you have very little, breaking through barriers and acting in kindness and with gratitude toward a common purpose, even when the outcome is uncertain.

Me to We's basic tenet is about improving our own lives and the world around us by reaching out to others. It involves focusing less on "me" and more on "we" - our communities, our nation and our world. Me to We aims to create a path to happiness that is less about material gains and more about making positive contributions in our world.

This outlook influences everything we do with Free The Children, which builds schools for children and provides health care, sanitation, clean water and sources of alternative income for entire communities.

Me to We is shaped by a spirit of inclusion and compassion, reaching out to others who might otherwise be overlooked. This decision isn't dependent on our personal circumstances or conditions so much as on our choices and priorities. It's about liberating one's self from material desires and forming meaningful relationships founded on mutual respect. It's about extending yourself to touch another life in order to improve the world.

This approach can take many forms. It can be as simple as everyday gestures of kindness and as ambitious as supporting a charitable cause. It can be as intimate as mentoring a young person or as indirect as making responsible, ethical consumer choices. What is most crucial about Me to We is recognizing the interconnectedness of our world and how our actions influence it. 

Living Me to We calls for energy, ideas and courage, but delivers an extraordinary payoff in return: a longer and healthier life, personal and professional growth, gratification and a deeper, truer happiness.

Anyone can live Me to We. Think we. Pass it on.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are founders of Free The Children and co-authors of Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World. Visit to order the book and to join the online Me to We community. The book is also available at and Barnes & Noble.

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