Teens Against Violent Oppression (or TAVO) is an amazing group of trailblazing youth who have a single mission – to end slavery once and for all. Over the past few months, they’ve been working hard to spread awareness about the work of International Justice Mission, and even raised over $3000 in one night selling hotdogs at a school play.
We sat down with a few members of the group to learn their secrets.
Who are you, what is your organization called, and what is your role in that organization?
My name’s [Victoria], and I am part of an organization called TAVO. [TAVO] stands for Teens Against Violent Oppression and we are a justice group here in Sherwood Park, student run, student led. We do events and awareness events, fundraising – a couple… actually quite a few times a year, and try to raise money and awareness for International Justice Mission and other local organizations too.
My name is Nancy, and I’m kind of new right now— I joined last year. I help out as much as I can, and next year I’m taking over as the leader.
I’m Keilah, and I would say… I’m kind of like a minion? (laughs) I don’t know how else to explain it, I’m just one of those people where I just help out as much as I can. I don’t have a super specific role, but I just fill in whatever roles are empty.
How did you get started?
Victoria: TAVO was started 6 years ago at Strathcona Christian Academy (SCA), around 2010, by a girl here at my school [in grade 12], as a part of an organization called ‘Love Works’. It was a great 8-week challenge to raise as much money as you could for an organization, and she just didn’t want to let it die after that so she started TAVO and kept it going. She left high school, started doing some events outside and then decided she wanted to bring it back to SCA. So 4 years ago we brought it back here, and here we are today.
Tell us about your personal "Justice Journey”.
Victoria: I guess ever since I was a kid I’ve been concerned with justice. First – well, when I was really young it was endangered animals, that made me so mad. Then when I was at a little youth group in grade 6 they started talking about slavery and I was so shocked that it still happened and it just kept on bothering me, so I just decided to do something about it. I also took part in that Love Works challenge and had a little team, and it just kind of went from there. Then, when I was in grade 9 TAVO was started [at SCA again], and here we are.
How did you learn about IJM?
Nancy: I learned about IJM through TAVO, they had done chapels and stuff at our school – that was the main thing – and I remember a long time before I joined TAVO seeing a video about [human trafficking] and that stuck with me. And when I heard what TAVO was about I knew that that was something that I was passionate about.
Which IJM story is most inspiring to you?
Victoria: Well there’s no really specific one, but I’ve always liked the stories of the former slaves going back to the places they were captured and helping to get more people out. That’s always…That’s just so strong and unheard of.
Can you describe one of your favourite moments from an event that you’ve run?
Keilah: During this year, during the school play, TAVO decided to start selling hot dogs to raise money, which was great because by the end of the plays we had raised about $3000, which was crazy. But during the final night we only had about 20 hot dogs, we didn’t think that we’d sell a lot, because it was the final night and half of us weren’t there.
We thought, "We’ll probably just sell out, and that’s okay we’ll just leave.” People came hungry. And we only had 20 hot dogs. We probably sold out within the first 5 minutes. And it was winter, there was a snow storm outside, and there’s a grocery store right across the school street, so we decided to have one person in the kitchen, making the hot dogs in the convection oven and then two people to keep on running across the street… through the snow storm… to get hot dogs. And then we also had two people out on the floor to sell hot dogs. So there were a lot of angry people, but by the end of the day, we were just tired but we got it done. It was a lot of fun.
What’s the number one tip or piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking about fundraising for IJM?
Victoria: I would say ‘let yourself care’ about the stuff you are doing. It’s all great and dandy but if you don’t care about it then you’re not going to have passion about it.
Keilah: Be patient. Just because something may seem hopeless, or it seems like a stupid or unnecessary idea, sometimes it can go way further than you expect it to.
Nancy: I would say get the word out. Because there’s caring people in the world. We’re not the only ones who care, you’re not the only one. And if you can find as many people who care, and get them together, then I think you can be unstoppable.
Just for fun-- a new app suddenly appears on your phone, what does it do?
Victoria: (laughs) It would be cool if it would show me where all the animals are around my house, I love looking for moose and stuff. I saw an owl on my way to school this morning and actually drove back to see it again.
What’s coming up next for TAVO?
Nancy: Well, we’re not really sure. I guess that’s kind of a mystery for us. We’re hoping to get some more members recruited for next year and get the ideas rolling, and just keep up and just grow in our organization.
Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Victoria: Don’t let anybody trick you into dreaming too small, you’re not too young, too stupid, too poor, too…anything. You have what it takes to change the world.