Editor's note: We were planning on doing a story about Strayer Middle School's efforts to free child slaves in Africa, but Strayer student Ivan Traczuk just did such a great job explaining it. Here is his story of how the idea started and how the school helped raise enough money to free two children.Every day in Africa, children as young as four to eight years old are forced to fish or work in life-threatening conditions. They usually work from five in the morning to seven at night with only one measly meal a day. This is not a way for young children to live, yet one in four African children are sold into slavery by their own parents for about $20!

Many of us knew this was a problem in our modern-day world, but wondered what a group of 85 seventh graders could do about it. The 7A team of Strayer Middle School had been studying Africa in Carrie Allen's social studies classes and had seen a disturbing video showing the trafficked children's faces and lives as they made their way to work each day. That same week, we attended a school-wide assembly on working together as one to make a difference. This is what inspired Dylan Jaloweic, Jared Godfrey, Kanisha Feliciano and Erin Hendricks to make a difference. As a result, with the help of the other students and 7A teachers: Susan Senigo, Michael Zackon and Matthew Pierce, the seventh graders founded the IOM (International Organization for Migration), which is an organization that helps to free and rehabilitate trafficked kids and their parents in Ghana. They found out that it costs $240 to free and rehabilitate one child. The students and teachers held meetings to draw up ideas on how to donate and raise money for the over-worked children.

There were many great ideas and ways to help raise the funds needed, but they narrowed it down to the fundraisers that would be the cheapest and most effective. Over the course of one month, the determined seventh graders had created posters, tiedye t-shirts, and plenty of baked goods to sell during lunch periods. Although many seventh graders participated in helping with these projects, two students: Elvia Guzman and Roya Weidman really stood out by making many baked goods and designing a fair amount of posters. In addition to the bake sales, the 7A team scheduled two "casual for a cause" days for another great way to raise money. The idea of a "casual for a cause" day was that students pay $0.50 to wear a hat or pajama pants for the whole school day and teachers pay $2.00 to dress down in more casual and relaxing clothing. All the money raised was given to a worthy cause; and in this case, the trafficked children in Africa.

Many students, as well as teachers, brought in very generous donations knowing that they were helping make a difference. At the end of the teams' fundraising journey, they had raised a total of $347.76! With the additional help of two especially generous teachers in our school (who wish to remain anonymous), the team was able to raise a total of $480 and were then able to free two children!

Although the school year is almost over, the road doesn't end here. The team hopes to encourage and challenge the upcoming seventh graders to continue this process and encourage their next year teachers to help them continue their efforts.

Looks like 85 seventh graders can make a difference if they believe and come together as one!

Ivan Traczuk is a student at Richard E. Strayer Middle School. Send comments to tfp@berksmontnews.com.

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