Human Rights

Rights of a Child

Our journey began in September when Ms. Grimm and Ms. Ranta asked us “What Mark Do We Leave?” Some of us thought, “scars leave marks, fingerprints leave marks”. Then with further discussions, some people said “heroes leave marks on us!” Learning about Terry Fox and participating in the Terry Fox Run lead us to realize the mark Terry left on Canadians and people all around the world. We were inspired and moved by his story and eager to learn about other Canadians who have brought about change.

As we were looking at heroes, we also started discussing how not ALL marks are positive ones. What about people who litter? They are leaving a mark on the earth but it’s not a good one! We thought by participating in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup we could reverse people’s negative marks left on the earth by volunteering our time to help clean up the Griffith Woods Shoreline.

We were really inspired when we learned about Ryan Hreljac who at the age of six learned that without access to clean water people become ill and sometimes even die. He set out to raise 70 dollars towards building a well in Africa and, having reached his goal in four months, Ryan kept working and organizing. He has now raised over one million dollars and his work has helped to change the lives of thousands of people in Africa who might not otherwise have been able to lead healthy, normal lives. Ryan’s Well Foundation has come together to continue this important and inspiring work.

Another Canadian who has been making a difference from a young age is Craig Kielburger. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize when he was 19 years old due to extraordinary work that he had done to help put an end to child labour. When he was 12, he read in the newspaper that Iqbal Masih was murdered because he was trying to free children in Pakistan from horrible working conditions. This inspired Craig to join the fight to make the world a safer place for children.

We were curious to find out how Iqbal could have inspired him so much that he would devote his life to raising awareness about child labour. We discovered, through reading the novel Iqbal, written by Francesco D' Adano , that we take for granted many things that we have in Canada. Iqbal was sold into Child labour at 4 years of age for the equivalent of $15 . His family needed money to buy medicine for his sister. Iqbal escaped from a carpet factory at age 10 and joined the Bonded Labour Liberation Front of Pakistan. He joined the fight against child labour, helping children escape from poor working conditions and get the education they needed to survive on their own. While visiting his family, he was shot, dead, while riding his bike on Easter Sunday at the age of 12. His killers were never found. That did not stop Iqbal’s message from getting out…it only made his message stronger.

We began to discuss what it would be like to be nine years old and work in a factory. “What would factories look like? What kind of clothes do the workers wear? What type of food do they get to eat? What would their skin look like (would there be scars, calluses, burns, cuts, infections, dirt)? Would they remember their families?” We learned more and more about what the conditions were like in a factory. Even though we learned about child labour, we just couldn’t understand what it would be like to not go to school but to have to go to work. Then one day someone in the class said, “It’s too bad we couldn’t see what one of the factories was like in real life”. Then another student said, “Yah, we’ve seen pictures and stuff but it’s not like really being there”. And then someone said, “Hey, maybe we could pretend that our class is a factory….and Ms. Grimm and Ms Ranta could be Masters!” And that’s where it all began.

We spent a couple of afternoons creating our carpet factories.

After three hours of tying knots, we realized that there has to be a way to avoid buying products made by children for little or no wage. We did not want to support children making the clothes we wear. Why should some children play soccer while others make the soccer balls we play with?

We asked an expert, Ms. Purdy, from 10,000 Villages how to buy items that were made in fair conditions. She showed us beautiful instruments and jewelry made by artisans from around the world. All of the items from 10,000 Villages stores are bought at a fair wage and all of the money goes to the maker.

Realizing that small things can make a big difference, we decided that we could inform others about fair trade. Fair trade is when workers receive a fair wage for the work they have done. We created fair trade brochures to teach the Glendale community where they can find fair trade products. Our hope was that some people might think twice when shopping.

Our teachers, Ms. Ranta, Ms. Grimm and the wonderful Mrs. Klinger attended a fundraising brunch for RESULTS Canada. Results is an organization that is creating the public and political will to end world poverty. Mr. Castiglione was the Master of Ceremony for the breakfast and our teachers told him about the things we were doing at school. He said, “I can’t believe Grade Four students are interested in stopping child labour!” and they said “you should come to Glendale and see it for youself!”

And he did.

Mr. Castiglione makes documentaries that feature Canadians who are bringing about change in other parts of the world. He showed us one of his documentaries about Operation Eyesight that helps people in Africa with eye problems. He is currently in the Dominican Republic working with ‘Add Your Light’ and Dr. Canada Jan helping bring clean water using BioSand Water filters.

The BioSand water filter provides clean drinking water to hundreds and thousands of Dominicans and Haitians. The biosand water filter can remove 95-97% of viruses and bacteria and 100% of protozoan and worms. This filtration system was invented by Calgarian Dr. David Manz. It uses sand filtration technology to make clean water. These water filters only cost 50 dollars Canadian and with proper maintenance they can last a lifetime.

Mr. Castiglione and Canada Jan are taking the $525 Glendale School raised to the Dominican Republic. This money will be used toward 10 biosand water filters that will help families lead healthier lives. They will be returning to Glendale after their trip to show us pictures of our water filters and explain how they are helping the community.

Copyright © 2006 J. Grimm, N. Klinger and L. Ranta

Copyright for students' work remains with the authors.