Our Mission and Our Model

An international charity and educational partner, Free The Children believes in a world where all young people are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change. We work to empower youth to remove barriers that prevent them from being active local and global citizens.

Our domestic and international programming work together to achieve this.

In Canada, the US, and the UK, the organization provides comprehensive programs for service learning and active citizenship.

  • We educateengage and empower youth in North America, the UK and around the world with the tools, knowledge, confidence and support network to be ambassadors for change and lead meaningful action.

In Africa, Asia and Latin America, the organization provides a comprehensive child-focused development approach inspired by the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”.

  • We work together with communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America to establish a comprehensive, child-focused development approach that gives all community members the education, skills and opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty—forever.

Our Model: at a glance



Our model of youth empowerment and international development is built on the understanding that the world we share brings us together. Our global approach to solving its problems is what sets Free The Children apart. Read more about Why We’re Different.

Our International and Domestic Model

Our world is complex, and truly effective solutions require a holistic approach. Free The Children is high-impact, accountable, and innovative.

Free The Children is an international charity and educational partner. Our organization is unique among Canadian charities in that it operates programs both domestically and internationally, in a manner that is intended to be interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Our overarching mandate is to help children and youth fulfill their potential to be agents of change. Typically, most organizations in Canada or the United States (or around the world) would serve primarily a domestic or international mandate. We serve both.

In Canada, the US, and the UK, the organization provides comprehensive programs for service learning and active citizenship. Free The Children’s We Day events inspire a generation to act, and our We Act program channels that inspiration into service learning.

In Africa, Asia and Latin America, the organization provides a comprehensive child-focused development approach inspired by the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.”

What makes us unique?

Our international programming model: Adopt a Village

Too often aid groups focus only on one area of development: water or education or healthcare, etc., rather than what the community really needs: a holistic solution that forever ends poverty.

With Adopt a Village, our international development model, there are five core pillars to ending poverty: Education, Water and Sanitation, Health, Alternative Income and Livelihood, and Agriculture and Food Security. Each of these projects serves to enhance the other, ensuring the greatest overall impact in each area of intervention, and achieving long-term sustainability.

  • Education: schools teach habits of healthy homes, business skills, and how to increase farming output enhances healthcare, alternative income and food security
  • Clean Water and Sanitation: preventing water-borne illness enhances healthcare; allowing girls and women to spend less time fetching water and more time attending school or setting-up small business enhances education and alternative income
  • Health: children healthy to thrive enhances education; quickly treating illness ensures that people do not lose their savings and enhances alternative income
  • Alternative Income and Livelihood: profits from small business ensures the community has the means to repair water projects, pay school fees, support medical projects, and re-invest into farms – all of which enhances the sustainability of water & sanitation, education, medical and food security
  • Agriculture and Food Security: children at school with a full stomach ready to learn enhances education;  a proper diet preventing illness enhances healthcare

Through Adopt a Village, we do not give hand-outs to individuals. We do not give a home or a pair of shoes or other personal items. Instead, we seek the greatest benefit through investing in the community infrastructure. Once a village has these five core pillars, then all members are able to thrive, make individual purchases, and lift themselves forever out of poverty. We believe that success is when someone never needs charity again.

Domestic programming model

Most charities focus on children and young people as the recipients of aid, as problems to be solved. At Free The Children, we proudly believe that youth can be the greatest problem-solvers.

We provide a comprehensive service learning program that inspires and engages schools, families and young people on a lifelong journey to make the world a better place. We offer an unparalleled depth of programming that touches every aspect of a young person’s life: youth coordinator support, after-school clubs, in-class curricular resources, volunteer and fundraising campaigns, summer leadership academies, international service trips, positive celebrity role models, online resources, and one of the world’s largest social media followings.

Research shows that our programs have a lasting impact

The organization always strives to improve, and conducts third-party evaluations to ensure the highest quality of both domestic and international programs.

Jason Saul, lecturer on social enterprise as faculty at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, carried out an independent review of Free The Children’s international development programming:

“It is our belief that Free The Children’s Adopt a Village model is an effective, sustainable and cost-effective approach to breaking the cycle of poverty in rural, marginalized communities world-wide.”

Free The Children has reported:



“650+”,”schools and school rooms built, allowing for the education of 55,000 children every day.”,”$16,000,000″,”worth of medical supplies shipped around the world.”

“30,000”,”women with economic self-sufficiency.”,”1,000,000+”,”people provided with clean water, health care and sanitation.”



Dr. Kathleen Korgen, professor at William Patterson University, carried out an independent and extensive study to evaluate the effectiveness of our youth programming. The study was conducted in close collaboration with students, parents, teachers and school board administrators.

Key highlights include that, as a result of participation in Free The Children programs and activities:

  • Students are more aware of global and local issues.
  • Students have more and/or stronger leadership skills.
  • Students are more confident.
  • Students have taken more action to create change.
  • Teachers are better able to engage students in caring about the world around them.
  • More youth are involved in social justice learning and action.
  • Teachers feel more connected to their students.

See full report here.

Innovative and Cost-Effective

The organization does not use telemarketing, street canvassers, or pay for those Sunday morning commercials. We believe that the best advertisement is the high impact of our programs.

We operate with a low administration rate, ensuring that, on average, 90% of donations directly goes to our projects. Free The Children has a trail-blazing partnership with Me to We, a social enterprise designed to support the charity, which includes an annual donation of half of its net profits to Free The Children, while reinvesting the other half to grow future social impact.