OCIC Global Changemaker 2015 Youth Ambassadors
Abby Lobert, Josh Schoon, David Schuurman, Victoria TeBrake, Braden VanDyk
“Let Kids Be Kids” – World Renew
When they participated in the All Ontario Youth Convention over the May long weekend in 2013, high school students Abby Lobert, Josh Schoon, David Schuurman, Victoria TeBrake, and Braden VanDyk saw it as an opportunity to connect with other young people. A keynote speech by Ida Kaastra Mutoigo, co-director of World Renew Canada, based in Burlington, Ontario, made them aware of wider issues in the world around them.
“It was the stories that struck us,” says Braden—stories of families that move into cities hoping to find work without success, of children who end up working in exploitative or dangerous conditions, who end up falling victim to sexual abuse or human trafficking.
Three weeks after the convention, an assignment in their Grade 10 Civics class gave the Hamilton District Christian High School students an opportunity to think more in detail about the issues of poverty and child labour. This is how they came up with “Let Kids Be Kids,” a group of HDCH students who raise funds to help address child labour and poverty.
The group contacted Iona Buisman, World Renew’s Global Volunteer Program Manager, who provided the students with an outline explaining how the money they raised would be used. This included a variety of programs in Nigeria and Senegal to support those affected by HIV and AIDS, to educate children about their rights—especially their right to say “no”—and to provide education so that they can break the cycle of poverty and become independent.
Let Kids Be Kids started by organizing small fundraising events, including bake sales and car washes that took place between June and September 2013. Seeing their initiative grow was encouraging for them as the group grew to include up to 15 members. David cites this group spirit and their collective faith as a driving force: “We have all put a lot of time and energy into this project and have worked together as a team throughout the whole process. We are all inspired by our belief in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who teaches us to care for the poor and the oppressed.”
The group set the goal of raising $15,000 by the time they graduated in June 2015. It was important, Braden points out, that they have a goal that was achievable yet challenging. Setting goals is essential, he adds, especially in a group setting: “It gave us something that we could keep in our sights the entire time, something that we could aim towards and that helped us organize.”
Much of the 2013–14 school year was devoted to organizing their largest event, a Spaghetti Dinner at HDCH in May 2014 that featured a presentation on human trafficking by a speaker from World Renew. It was a very stressful day, Braden points out, as it was “impossible to get perfect.” Having a group whose members are incredibly supportive of one another made the difference. Before the start of the event, Braden explains, “we all gathered in the kitchen and prayed together; we remembered the goal we had set, and remembered that we were there for each other.” The dinner ended up raising $2635 in donations.
Let Kids Be Kids is well on pace to exceed its original goal; as of January, the group has raised $13,000—an amount that will be matched three-fold by the Canadian government when the time comes.
In recent meetings, the members of Let Kids Be Kids—now in Grade 12 and approaching graduation—have been encouraging each other to stay connected and to continue working towards the same goals. Josh emphasizes the importance of continuing to find ways to create change and get to the root of the various issues even upon graduating. Like many of them, Josh will be studying International Development at university next year, adding: “This is something I want to do for the rest of my life.”
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