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OurStory

The Story of Me to We

Ecuador: where it all started.

More than a decade ago, Me to We’s co-founders, Craig and Marc Kielburger, travelled by pack mule up a mountain in Ecuador to build a school for an impoverished community.

At first, it seemed so simple. They had two weeks to build a school, and a group of energetic student volunteers to help. But, an unforeseen complication arose. Because it was the community’s harvest season, mules laden with crops were almost constantly winding down the narrow paths to get to market. The mules carrying cement mix and lumber couldn’t get by on the treacherous paths to reach the build site.

No supplies, no school. And not much time left.

Craig and Marc had plane tickets booked back to North America in just a few days and the foundation wasn’t even finished. Try explaining this situation to your teacher: “Sir, I’m late because a mule ate my homework.”

When the mules finally made it, there were only two days left before the brothers had to leave. No matter how much dreaming and planning they had done, their teamwork couldn’t make up for lost time. They had no idea what to do.

So, Craig and Marc met with the village chief, the oldest woman in the community, and humbly wondered if she might have a solution. After listening to their predicament, she got up, walked out the door of her hut, and shouted, “Tomorrow, there will be a minga.”

Craig and Marc anxiously watched and waited. Villagers working nearby barely looked up. Her words had no apparent effect. Disappointed, they thanked the chief and slouched back to tell their volunteers that they couldn’t finish the school. The brothers went to sleep that night dejected. They had failed.

When they awoke the next day they could barely believe what they saw: hundreds of people milling about in the village square. Men of all ages had left their fields in peak harvest; women, some carrying babies on their backs, had walked for many miles; breathless children stared up at them with curiosity. Many had walked for hours and hours, starting in the middle of the night.

Marc and his brother were thankful beyond all words, but they still didn’t quite understand why people with apparently nothing to gain had walked for hours to help. The chief explained that a minga was a call to action. Roughly translated, it means: “a community coming together to work for the benefit of all.” Once a minga was called, children were sent as runners to neighbouring villages (there were no phones). People from different tribes dropped what they were doing and travelled up to six hours to build the school—even though their own children lived too far way to attend. They all understood that by helping others in another village they helped their collective future. Someday the people of this village—and their children—would return the favour.

At first Marc and Craig thought there must be a perfect translation for minga, after all English has close to 500,000 words. It couldn’t be “volunteer work,” because you can do that alone. They thought of “barn raising”, but how many barns do you see going up in downtown New York?

In North America we have dozens of words for money. Why was it so hard for them to define something as beneficial as a minga?

If they couldn’t find the perfect word, they could at least try to create its meaning in our world: a movement of people who come together for the greater good. A world where, when the call goes out, people respond. A world that’s a little less about me and a lot more about we.

Creating Me to We

An ingenious business model.

Marc and Craig have both been around the world—more than 20 times, actually—and studied many charities. In their travels they have also spent time in some of the most powerful board rooms in the corporate world.

They soon came to see that the pure business model doesn’t work, at least if your main objective is to make the world a better place. They asked themselves: How could we get beyond guilt and greed? How could we take the best business practices and infuse them with a world-changing spirit?

Craig and Marc believe that consumers are powerful citizens because they vote everyday—instead of every few years—when they spend their money. What we purchase matters. We spend more on our lifestyles than we give to charity, and so those dollars need to have a greater impact.

That’s why, Me to We was created to help transform consumers into socially conscious world changers, one transaction at a time.

Me to We blends the best of business and charitable practices together. Me to We redefines the bottom line. For us, and for tens of thousands of people who believe in social change, Me to We has quickly become a way of life.

Living Me to We

The world: where it’s going.

In every decision we make, Me to We strives to set an example of the highest social standards in business. By offering ethically manufactured products and inspiring leadership experiences, and by financially supporting the work of Free The Children with every purchase made, we strive to build a world where corporate thinking meets social awareness.

From carbon offsetting all of our international volunteer trips, shipping and domestic travel, to printing on recycled paper and avoiding all pesticides in the production of our products, Me to We is committed to leaving a light footprint on the earth.

In 2012, Me to We’s impacts included:

680,273 gallons of water saved. 43,055 pounds of solid waste saved.
1,476 trees saved. 142,749 pounds of greenhouse gases saved.
195,000 trees planted. 520,306 people inspired through speeches, books, and leadership programs.
268,848 hours of volunteer service executed on Me to We trips. 800 mamas employed full-time in communities served by Free The Children.

 

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