Iqbal Masih, 12 years old, was becoming a worldwide symbol against child slavery when he was shot dead while riding a bicycle near his home in Pakistan last April. He had been forced to make carpets 14 hours a day from the time he was four until he was 10. His dream was to get an education, become a lawyer and free other children.
When Iqbal was in the U.S. in late 1994 to accept his Reebok Youth in Action Award, he visited Broad Meadows Middle School in Quincy, Mass., and told the seventh and eighth-graders there of his life and his dream. They began an extensive letter-writing campaign against child labor and the sale of carpets made by young slaves.
When they heard of Iqbal's death, many of the students were stunned, recalled Amanda Loos. But they also knew they must do something. Recognizing the value Iqbal placed on education, they decided on a goal that might have seemed impossible to an adult: they would build a school in Iqbal's hometown.
After researching costs and opening discussions with the Pakistani government, they set a goal of $50,000. Then they began raising funds, first in their school, their neighborhood, their town and finally on the Internet.
The donation they asked for was $12. This was because Iqbal was 12 when the students
met him, he was 12 when he was killed and $12 was the amount his father received when he sold Iqbal into slavery.
By the time the students of Broad Meadows School received the 1995 Youth in Action Award at the ceremony, the drive had raised $28,000. Reebok, which had set aside $10,000 for Iqbal's college education, contributed $12,000. As this issue went to press, more than $100,000 had been raised.
"Iqbal, dear friend, rest in peace," said student Amy Papile. "We haven't forgotten you."