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Grade 5/6 Class in Ontario uses Creative Writing to Help End Modern Day Slavery

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 education, inspiration, and a clear demonstration of students setting an example in word and in deed 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, as I did, soon learned that slavery still exists in our world today and that this group of 10 and 11 year olds were inspired to do something to help stop it.

On the tables were copies of the book "From Chains to Freedom – A collection of Slave Narratives by Mrs. Bonvanie’s Grade 5/6 Students.”

The proceeds of their independently published, 227 page book is going to support the work of International Justice Mission Canada. The book launch in the mall was the final step after months of hard work on the part of the students.

I chatted with their teacher Angie Bonvanie about the student’s 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 1800’s.

"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.

While creating slave narratives the students learned that slavery was still happening today and decided they wanted to do something about 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”, stated Mrs. Bonvanie.

The class was surprised to find that young children, like Kumar, were enslaved today, and 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 has come in, and students plan to sell copies of their book at their churches over the summer. A local bookstore will also be stocking their narratives.

To date, the project has raised over eight hundred dollars. The funds raised will be matched dollar for dollar, as part of IJM Canada’s Just Act campaign, bringing the total to $1600!

Mrs. Bonvanie has advice for teachers and students who want to help end modern day slavery, "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.”

Her words to students – the key bible verse for the class – 1 Timothy 4:12, "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Start small – God just needs a willing heart and He’ll take it from there.”

Become an agent of change:

Organize your own Just Act. All funds raised until the end of 2015 are being matched up to $50,000!

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

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