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Marc Kielburger Bio: His Life Story and Journey to Today

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Marc Kielburger is a human rights activist who was born in 1977 in Southern Ontario. 

He was serving as a page in the House of Commons shortly after graduating from high school when he was persuaded to fly to Thailand and volunteer with a charity in Bangkok’s slums. 

Marc found his calling while serving in Klong Toey: assisting others. Marc Kielburger devoted his life to the ME to WE ideology long before he co-founded the organization with his brother.

In addition to everything mentioned above, we will now cover the life story, achievements and other valuable information to learning more about Marc Kielburger and what he’s currently working on today.

Getting Educated

Marc continued his schooling until he returned to North America. He accepted a Harvard scholarship and graduated with a Magna Cum Laude in International Relations. 

Marc Kielburger had many work offers after graduating from Oxford. He made a life-changing decision to return to Canada and create a children’s charity.

Starting the Journey

Marc co-founded the Kiel Network with his brother Craig, which includes three charities: Free the Children, Leaders Today, and ME to WE. ME to WW: Flipping Self-Help on Its Head and ME to WE: Seeking Sense in a Material World are two of his co-authored books. 

The ME to WE philosophy is more about helping others and seeking true happiness, rather than ever worrying about yourself. 

Marc holds the record for being the youngest person to win the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship. In 2004, he was the youngest person ever to be named as “One of Canada’s Top 40 Leaders Under 40.” Craig, his younger brother, became the youngest two years later. Marc has also been awarded an honorary doctorate by Nipissing University for his leadership development work.

Early Years

Marc Kielburger went to Neuchâtel Junior College in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, and Brebeuf College School in Toronto. He was a member of Brebeuf’s debate club and competed in debates hosted by the Ontario Pro-Con Debating Forum while there. 

Marc volunteered in Jamaica at a hospice for teenage mothers and a home for elderly homeless people with leprosy when he was 13 as part of a school credit program coordinated by Fintan Kilbride. 

For his project on alternative home cleaners, he received the award for Best Junior Project at the Canada-Wide Science Fair a year later. He worked for eight months at an AIDS hospice in Bangkok’s slums when he was 18 years old.

He earned a magna cum laude degree in International Relations from Harvard University, and received a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University to study law, with a concentration on human rights.

Activism and Social Entrepreneurship

Free the Children, an international charity and educational partner, was co-founded by Marc Kielburger. The organization has worked in 45 countries, building over 650 schools and classrooms in developing countries, educating over 55,000 children every day. 

Kielburger co-founded ME to WE, a social enterprise that sells socially conscious goods and donates half of its profits to Free The Children. He also co-founded We Day, an international youth empowerment festival with over 200,000 participants held in large stadiums across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Marc and his partner, Craig, write a weekly column called “Global Voices” for many Canadian newspapers and the Huffington Post Canada online about social activism around the world. 

The brothers also write a weekly column called “Living Me to We,” which appears in the Postmedia newspaper chain and on Canada.com. They also contribute to The Globe and Mail’s “Have your say” section, in which they ask experts and readers for answers to social problems.

The ME to WE Journey

International travel experiences changed the lives of brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger when they were in middle school, sparking the launch of the social enterprise ME to WE. What used to be ME is now WE. 

Craig and Marc began planning trips when they took the first group of young people to India, Nicaragua, and Kenya to help establish WE Charity’s first schools. Since they couldn’t find a provider that would take youth under the age of 18, Craig and Marc began these foreign volunteer trips.

The WE Charity Board of Directors respectfully rejected their offer to create a volunteer travel program. A Board of Directors would have had to bear all liabilities and possible liability if anything went wrong in Canada due to the rules. 

It was too much of a gamble for the Board of Directors, some of whom are well-known philanthropists. And, under Canadian law, if a volunteer pays for themselves or a family member to engage in a foreign volunteer trip (with the exception of the unusual case where philanthropists provide scholarships for others), it is a “personal gain” rather than a charitable activity qualified for a tax receipt.

The word “social enterprise” had not yet been coined at the time. As a result, the brothers formed a small business in 1999 to organize volunteer trips and leadership camps. It was dubbed Leaders Today and acted as a forerunner to ME to WE. Any profits were offered to children as scholarships at the end of the year.

ME to WE now offers trips to eight destinations in their global partner countries, with experiences for individuals, youth, colleges, families, and businesses.

Recognition and Awards

  • Marc Kielburger has received several accolades, including the Order of Canada and selection as one of the World Economic Forum’s 250 Young Global Leaders. 
  • He has received nine honorary degrees for his contributions to education and human rights, including an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Toronto in Spring 2011.
  • Youngest person ever to be awarded the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship
  • He was the youngest person to be named one of Canada’s “Top 40 Leaders Under Forty” at the time (2004, age 27). (In 2006, aged 23, his brother Craig became the youngest.)
  • For his exemplary contributions to poverty alleviation and global youth growth, Capilano University awarded him an honorary doctorate.
  • Nipissing University awarded him an honorary doctorate for his contributions to leadership development.
  • Alumnus of the Year Award, Toronto Catholic District School Board, 2005-2006
  • For his outstanding leadership in the pursuit of children’s rights, ethical living, and social responsibility, Carleton University awarded him an honorary doctorate of law.
  • Brebeuf College School inducted him into the Order of St. Jean de Brebeuf in 2012.
  • In 2012, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
  • In 2013, he was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.

If you enjoyed this article, then you will also enjoy this one about how to spend your time and efforts on charitable needs and good causes to help those in need around the world.

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