India New England News (newspaper)
He was in town then to receive the Reebok Human Rights Youth-Action Award for
his active role in speaking out against child labor.
Ever since, the students have been part of a national program called Operation Day's Work, which is sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development. They collect pledges from friends and family for a day's work, in their case, volunteer work at the local library. The money raised is then pooled nationally and helps to build schools in developing countries that need them the most. This year, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Iqbal's visit, Reebok decided to rename its employee day care center after him. Student representatives from Broad Meadows participated in the ceremonies on May 3 at Reebok's world headquarters in Canton, Mass. Doug Cahn, vice president of Reebok's human rights program, explained the decision to rename the center.
" Iqbal spoke very powerfully that children should have the tool of the pen, not the tool to make carpets," he told INDIA New England. "The message that I and many others he touched got was about the importance of education and giving children the opportunity to live in an environment - to grow and be nurtured."
Annually, the company recognizes human rights activists around the world with
the presentation of the Reebok human rights awards.
Seventh-grader Kristen Bloomer is one of the many participants in the program. She points out that for a country to qualify for aid it does not necessarily need to be on friendly terms with the United States. "We don't hold politics against the children," she says. "Kids who need help should get it." She says that participation in programs such as Operations Day's Work has opened her eyes to injustices that children around the world suffer every day. " I don't buy clothes from Old Navy or Gap anymore," she says, "because they have been accused of using child labor. It would be hypocritical when we are advocating an end to child labor."
Her classmate and friend, Emily Rooney, says that the satisfaction derived from helping other children just like her is immense. " We live the dream that these children in Sierra Leone and every other developing country dream of," she points out. Sixth-grader Yasser Mahmoud, who immigrated to the United States from Egypt a few years ago, admits he now sees things from a different perspective. " I like the thought of being able to help kids out there," he says. "Before I joined [Operation Day's Work], I used to take the bus to school. Now that I joined, I am like why do I take the bus, I can walk. These kids have to walk miles to go to a school. All I have to do is walk a hundred yards or something. It makes me feel good."
As for teacher Ron Adams, he says the students' idealism provides the fuel for this venture. "What better words could a teacher ever hear," he asks, "than to hear students say that education is power. Bags of money dry up but education lasts a lifetime."
From left, Reebok Chairman and CEO Paul Fireman, Broad Meadows School
student Kristen Bloomer and teacher Ron Adams applaud the renaming
of Reebok´s day care center for Iqbal Masih. Iqbal, a former
child laborer, was killed in his native Pakistan for speaking out about
the injustices he had suffered.