My daughter Jessie has severe allergies. I still remember the first time she had a reaction to fish—the small bite of bland, white Tilapia on her plate suddenly became life-threatening. I fought to stay calm even though I was sure my heart was going to pound right out of my chest.
When Josh was four, I lost him at an outdoor festival. He let go of my hand for a moment and disappeared into the crowd. This time I wasn’t so calm. To this day I can't remember how we found him, only how relieved I was when he was in my arms again.
Both times my children were safe but that didn’t stop my urge to protect them and the overwhelming fear I felt when I thought I couldn’t.
It’s my job as a parent to raise my children to be independent, responsible, caring adults. Last summer I sent Josh to a camp that teaches leadership skills to build self-esteem and confidence. But I sent him knowing he would be in a completely safe environment.
It’s natural to want to protect your children and keep them safe. For every mother in Canada who worries about sending her son to a playground by himself or wonders at what age she should let her daughter sleep over at a friend’s house, there is a mother on the other side of the world who is worried about how she will provide even the basic necessities for her child. Many times she can’t so her child is forced to work at a young age.
Mao was in grade 2 when she had to drop out of school to help her family earn money for food, water, and shelter. Eventually she sold her virginity to a man for US$200, immediately sending US$150 to her mother to help pay off some of the family debt.
I want you to imagine for a moment your young daughter being forced to have sex with an adult man to help purchase food for her siblings. It’s almost beyond comprehension, isn’t it?
A few months ago there was a storm that knocked out our electricity. We turned it into a fun night complete with flashlights and reading, cuddled in blankets knowing we were safe.
Now imagine you live in a country where there has been a flood, your house has been destroyed, and there is nowhere to go. You and your children are forced to walk hundreds of miles with no secure place to sleep or food to eat. Did you know that migrations during a humanitarian crisis are a time when children are especially vulnerable to threats like trafficking and slavery? Not only are these families mourning the loss of the few possessions they had, now they have to worry about their children being abducted and sold into slavery.
Child exploitation doesn't just happen during disaster or famine in many countries around the world. Working with World Vision recently I learned that eleven per cent of child labour is found solely in the manufacturing industry, as in those textile sweatshops making clothing exported to countries like Canada. I often wonder if a child has worked to produce the variety of imported products I buy off Canadian shelves.
It seems overwhelming but there’s something you can do to help—right now.
It’s natural to want to protect our children and keep them safe. This is something we all have in common no matter where we live.
Mother’s Day has just passed and what better way to honour mothers around the world than by taking 15 seconds to sign a petition to help keep someone else’s child safe.
Read how Erica is teaching her children about human rights
Check out Erica's post about how dirty a child's work can actually get
Visit World Vision’s End Child Slavery campaign at endchildslavery.ca.