Twenty-eight students at Lorne Akins Junior High School took a 24-hour vow of silence earlier this month to raise awareness for children’s rights around the world.
The Vow of Silence, an annual fundraising initiative of Free the Children, took place globally on Nov. 19, the 21st anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Most participants remained quiet for the entire 24-hour period, in solidarity with children around the world who have been silenced by poverty and exploitation.
According to Free the Children, more than one billion children worldwide live in poverty and many struggle to overcome hunger, child labour, discrimination and lack of education.
Silence meant everything from not speaking, to refraining from Facebook, text messaging and hand gestures.
“It was pretty hard, it was harder than I expected it to be because you want to say something and then you try to act it out and write it out and people still don’t understand,” said Kate Korte, a Grade 8 student who organized the event at Lorne Akins.
She said she first came across the Vow of Silence campaign while researching Free the Children online. This year for her birthday, Korte said she will ask people to donate to the organization on her behalf in lieu of presents.
“It was Kate’s idea initially and she just got a whole bunch of friends to start and it just got bigger and bigger,” said friend Annika Hanson, who also took part in the event and raised $76 for Free the Children.
Hanson said she took part in the event to raise awareness of children around the world who don’t have the same opportunities as kids in Canada.
“We did this for 24 hours but we could still write stuff, we could still communicate and have a say and they just don’t have that opportunity,” Hanson said of many children worldwide.
“They can talk but they can’t say what their needs are.”
Korte said she brought a white board to school on Nov. 19 so that she was still able to communicate.
“I tried to use hand actions but that didn’t work too well,” said Korte, who raised $210 for Free the Children.
“I think that we don’t really realize how many rights we have and how well off we are compared to others,” she said.
Hanson said she used a notepad to communicate during her vow of silence.
“I think that Canada, we take it for granted that the children have lots of rights, they have a say. We are really fortunate for that,” Hanson said.
Nicole Kovacs took a 15-hour vow of silence and said she found it extremely difficult to be silent.
“Trying to keep quiet when everyone else is around you talking and asking you questions and then you can’t talk and you’re trying to figure out how to tell them what you are saying,” she said.
Jill Wiberg, another participant, compared the Vow of Silence to the 30-Hour Famine, which students took part in last year.
“I thought it was a really good cause and Kate’s done a lot of charity events and they’ve all been really successful so I thought it would be interesting.” she said.
Korte said she plans to organize a Vow of Silence again next year.