The seeds of WE Villages were planted in 1995, when a trip to South Asia brought Craig face-to-face with the harsh realities of child labor.
For seven weeks, Craig Kielburger journeyed through slums, sweatshops and back alleys where many children lived in heart-wrenching poverty, often performing menial and dangerous jobs.
Inspired by his trip, Craig and his brother Marc set out to build a rescue home in India, where freed child laborers could recover. But the siblings quickly realized this was only a stop-gap solution to a huge and complex issue. To win the war against child labor they had to get to the root of the problem.
Craig and Marc shifted their focus to what they believed would prevent child labor in the first place: education. They started building schools, and the first pillar of what would soon become WE Villages was born.
Partnering with community leaders to create a sustainable development plan, they learned that often, girls didn’t attend school at all, in part because they had to fetch water for their families. So WE Charity and local teams began building water wells near schools, allowing girls to get an education and go home at the end of the day with the family’s water.
Teachers shared that if children weren’t healthy they missed school, or showed up but were too sick to pay attention. So health care programming was introduced.
Families pointed out that even with schools, wells and health care, children missed school for financial reasons. So again working with community leaders, WE Charity developed alternative income and livelihood programs to empower mothers with financial independence, allowing them to support their families and keep their children in classrooms and out of the workforce.
WE Villages’ model continued to evolve to meet the changing needs of our community partners. In 2012 we added Agriculture and Food Security as the fifth pillar of WE Villages.
The Agriculture and Food Security pillar, made possible by founding partner PotashCorp, focuses on innovative farming techniques and water management projects to help ensure developing communities have access to self-sustaining food sources, directly impacting their health, access to education and life outcomes.
WE Charity Co-founder Marc Kielburger on the WE Villages model.