leah-testimonial-croppedIf you and I were sitting at a coffee shop and talking as friends, this is what I would tell you about my journey over the past few months. I would share my story with you and tell you why we started this project called “Childhood Lost,” as well as some of the bumps and bruises I experienced along the way.

I’d admit to you that I had a difficult time approaching the subject of child slavery, child labor, children as indentured servants and child soldiers.   This reality–children being trafficked and the details behind “why” was something that was new to me–even though I work at World Vision.  I’m a youth leader andin my mid 40’s.  I grew up in youth groups and for as long as I can remember I have wanted to serve.  But here’s where I get uncomfortable.  And even embarrassed.  The problem of child slavery is not new and has been a battled for hundreds of thousands of years.  Yet in my upbringing, this subject didn’t cross my path.  Honestly, that makes me angry.  I think of the years when I was searching for things to take action on, to fight for and to pray for…years that I was sheltered from this subject.

In our coffee conversation, and even sharing with you now, this is where I get choked up.

What’s different now?  Not the problem. Not the desire young people have to leverage their voices and skills against acts of injustice.  The difference is access of information.  With the Internet, social media, and ways to learn about the rest of the world, young people have access to some of the world’s most heart wrenching problems.

Once that Pandora’s box is opened, our students have questions.  They want to know what is really happening.  They want the truth and they want to know how they can help.  When our team created the Childhood Lost program, we read through life story after life story of unfathomable acts against children.  I’m not gonna lie.  My heart is still wrecked– yet I am also angry that I didn’t know enough take a stand on this when I was a teenager.

Help us shepherd young people through this path.  We can teach them that the best weapon against injustices to children is a powerful combination of child protection and prayer.  If our students learn this lesson at their age–that helping communities have safe spaces for children can stop problems before they happen–think of how different this conversation could be in 10 or 15 years.  Think of the children who won’t need to be rescued because we took action now.

Thank you for sharing a virtual coffee space with me.  Please, record your stories as a youth leader and how your students respond to this subject and send them to us.  We’ll use this space to let other people know the powerful impact of this work.

God bless you, and remember you are always in our prayers.

Leah Swindon

Director, World Vision Youth Programs

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