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With a reported 2.5 million individuals caught in human trafficking, childhoods are ripped away every day. That is why 18 students from Hamilton District Christian High are striving to raise $15,000 by the time they graduate in 2015. So far they have raised almost $9,000 to “Let Kids Be Kids.”

The funds will be matched 3:1 by the Canadian government to assist with World Renew’s efforts in Nigeria and Senegal supporting communities through education, employment initiatives, and village savings and loans.

“Let Kids Be Kids” was formed a year ago after several students heard World Renew’s presentation on human trafficking at the All Ontario Youth Convention.

They were challenged by a teacher to write an end-of-year research paper that would lead to a service project. Student Braden VanDyk of Burlington Christian Reformed Church came up with the idea of a campaign to help the children they had just heard about. After completing the research paper, students wanted to propel this idea forward.

What started as a great way to work together as a group of friends became so much more. “We saw God opening more doors and opportunities,” said student Victoria teBrake of Faith CRC in Burlington. For student Erin Kurvits, first-hand experience during a mission trip to Uganda this past March, meeting children who need this help, motivates her to reach the goal.

“We commend this group for their creativity and compassion,” said Ida Kaastra Mutoigo, director of World Renew Canada. “The key to prevent human trafficking is to increase people’s ability to improve their financial situation. This is an exciting example of how God can be at work to address social injustice.”

For VanDyk, it is important to advocate on behalf of these children: “We’ve grown up with toys, food, clothes, a home, and no worries of being forced into labor,” explained VanDyk. “Every kid deserves to have a childhood.”

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