Last Thursday I got to go back to the classroom, this time to teach sixth graders about human trafficking. (Keep in mind that my last fourteen years as an educator have been spent in K-2 classrooms.) Our sixth grade teachers do a study on various cultures through a unit called Passport to Adventure. They invite in various guest speakers to teach five 45-minute rotations. One of the sixth grade teachers knows that I am passionate about doing our part to end modern-day slavery, so she asked me to come share. For the past several years, I taught a two-week unit on slavery in the cocoa industry and fair trade chocolate. I had to try and decide how to convey all of this information in a 45-minute time period. I knew that most of these students wouldn’t know that there are currently 27 million people enslaved today. I was pretty certain that they didn’t know that almost 20,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. every year. And I was positive that they didn’t know that child slaves were forced to labor 18 hours, neglected, abused and denied an education for that chocolate they ate at Halloween.
I began by using a vimeo featured on www.accessoriesforhope.com to set the background knowledge on human trafficking. We defined abolitionist, and I told them that by the end of the lesson they would know what they could do to fight slavery. My passion for social justice began with chocolate – something I’ve always loved. When my daughter was 5 years old, I read about children her own age forced to carry 50 pound bags of cocoa beans. This discovery led me to research more on modern-day slavery. I heard about girls her age raped 10-40 times a night. I saw pictures of children her age and their parents locked inside a brick kiln making bricks all day long in the hot Indian sun, just to wake up to the nightmare again the following morning. Why is it okay to turn a blind eye when it’s not my child? I decided that ignoring the issue was not an option. As an educator, I have a heart for children and it doesn’t stop at the classroom door.
After talking with the sixth graders, telling them about International Justice Mission, Not For Sale Campaign, and Challenging Heights, I showed them that just by telling people around them about human trafficking, and switching purchases to fair trade products, that they, too, would become abolitionists. I was blessed to receive thank you letters from many of the sixth graders. One girl and her friends started a contest to see who could avoid non-fair trade chocolate the longest. Another student wrote that his parents posted the new information they learned on facebook. I heard from a community member that the teacher in the next rotation these students attended tried to give them Hershey’s candy as a reward, and they refused it! Twelve and thirteen-year-olds get it! They can, are, and will make a difference!