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Students Wield the Power of the Pen to Help End Modern-Day Slavery

Blog entry reposted from IJM Canada. Written by Kelly Cameron, Associate Director of Mobilization

You don’t often leave a shopping mall feeling inspired. But shoppers in Georgetown, Ontario were in for an educational and motivational experience at their local mall.

At four strategic locations throughout the Georgetown Marketplace, patrons were greeted by Grade 5 & 6 students from Halton Hills Christian School. Anyone who stopped to chat with the students, soon learned that slavery still exists in our world, and that this group of 10 and 11 year olds wanted to share this with their community. To do this, they teamed together to create a book, From Chains to Freedom” – A collection of Slave Narratives by Mrs. Bonvanie’s Grade 5/6 Students”. 

The book launch in the mall was the final step after months of hard work by of the students. They shared that the proceeds of their independently published, 227-page book will support the work of International Justice Mission Canada. Intrigued, I chatted with their teacher, Angie Bonvanie, regarding the students' journey to become “agents of change.”

It began in January, when the students read "Underground to Canada" by Barbara Smucker, a historic novel about slavery in the 1800s.

“The kids were struck by people being treated differently because of the colour of their skin. They couldn’t believe it,” shared Mrs Bonvanie.

They learned more about the realities of historical slavery through watching a play on the life of Harriet Tubman and completing activities from the Underground Railroad website.

In this journey, the students learned that slavery still existed today and decided they wanted to do something to fight against it.

Their driving question for the project became, “Could we, as historical fiction writers, create slave narratives to raise awareness about modern day slavery?”

The students researched the work of IJM by exploring the student webpages and decided that this was the organization they wanted to support. “The kids loved the mission of IJM – rescue thousands, protect millions, and prove that justice for the poor is possible,” Mrs. Bonvanie said.

The class was surprised to find that young children, like Kumar, were enslaved today, and they were inspired by Hannah, a Canadian student, who was doing something about slavery.

Students worked diligently to make their book a reality. Each student wrote a narrative and designed an illustration for the book. According to their teacher, “They were invested and engaged. You could see their hearts – this mattered.” Students teamed up in groups to design the book, coordinate publishing and set up the book sale. They shared their new knowledge through an exhibition for their school and ended the project with a public book launch at the local mall.

Even with the school year ending, these students still have plans to spread awareness and raise funds for IJM. After selling out of their initial order, a second shipment of books arrived, and students plan to sell copies of their book at their churches over the summer. A local bookstore will also be stocking their narratives. The funds raised by the class will also be matched as part of IJM Canada’s Just Act campaign.

Looking back on this project, Mrs. Bonvanie advised, “ Let your students have a voice. I didn’t imagine that this project would become what it is. We started out with an idea, but it became very much their own.”

Learn more about modern-day slavery and how students can make a difference. 

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