Promise to help children kept 17 years later

Child advocate Craig Kielburger still fulfilling a promise to kids despite setbacks in a world that's hard to change

Craig Kielburger set out to change the world 17 years ago as a wide-eyed, 12-year-old full of hope and vigor. He told his story to Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes in 1996. Kielburger knows now there are some things you can't change, but that hasn't dampened his spirit or his commitment to Free the Children, the charity he founded in his parent's living room. Scott Pelley catches up with Kielburger, who is still making a difference for over a million children and families living in desperate poverty around the world. Pelley's report will be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Nov. 25 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT.

Kielburger's charity is now in 45 countries and takes in $30 million per year. It's the largest organization of children helping children in the world. It all began in the 1990s when he read about a boy in Pakistan who was killed for trying to stop child labor. He knew he had to do something about it. So, he went to Asia, and with the help of activists and government officials, helped shut down sweatshops and brothels manned by children.

Later, he learned that some of the kids he freed were being pulled back into servitude. He found that busting down doors of sweatshops was easy but changing a culture of slavery was hard. "The lowest moment ever was the first time in Southeast Asia, when we met children who we had freed before and then years later, to see that some of those same kids would end up back in some of the same grinding, backbreaking, desperate poverty," Kielburger tells Pelley.

Instead of giving up, he made a promise he's kept to this day. "The only thing I could promise them at that point was that I would share their stories with whoever would listen...when you make a promise, you have to fulfill it," says Kielburger.

His determination to expose child poverty has helped him recruit two million volunteers, almost all of whom are under the age of 18. Free the Children builds schools, provides clean water and helps artisans sell their goods in an effort to help people rise out of poverty.

Each year, 2,400 kids lend their hands overseas to help on their projects. 60 Minutes followed two of them, Joey Hopkins and Magdalena Dutkowska from Bridgeport, Conn., on a trip to East Africa. They had raised enough money to go to Kenya to join a team building a classroom. Hopkins is 12, the same age Kielburger was when he started Free the Children. When Hopkins was asked why he volunteered, he gave a similar response Kielburger gave Bradley many years ago: "There's a whole world of people who need your help and it's your job and it's everyone's job to help out those people so that they could have the same opportunities and possibilities that you do," says Hopkins.