The Child Freedom Project: Collaborative Aid In Canadian Classrooms


© Amka Arts / Elephant Thoughts

Innocent’s Story

When I was eleven, I came to live in the street because life was hard at home when my mother died. I saw no reason to stay home when my father could not send me to school or look after my brothers and sisters.

Now I work in the garbage dump to look for plastic bottles and scrap metal to sell.

In the afternoon, after work, I love to come to AMKA Arts, where I can learn musical instruments, play games, learn the computer, make songs with other children, then record and make videos.

We can wash our bodies and clothes here. At night, we eat dinner together: rice, beans, and vegetables. We share stories and ideas about how to live good lives.

© AMKA ARTS / Elephant Thoughts

Long before the pandemic created a slew of new challenges in international aid, Elephant Thoughts (ET), a Canadian registered charity focused on creating and providing exceptional educational opportunities to children and youth facing barriers, had been reassessing its approach to international aid. ET took a step back from some of its international work to develop an alternative solution not only to increase global impact but develop a community of globally conscious youth at home.

After listening to their friends on the ground, from the far reaches of Central American cities to the Nepalese mountains to rural Africa, ET developed a new program that would answer their international mandate: The Child Freedom Project (CFP). CFP is ET’s answer many traditional challenges associated with aid. It is an educational fundraising platform that hinges on meaningful international connections to inspire transformative change. It is designed for Canadian teachers interested in fostering young global citizens. It eliminates much of the waste associated with traditional aid (100 percent of funds raised go directly to the need).

Across the country, educators would bravely lead their students through tough social topics, inciting interest in global issues and equal opportunity for all youth—educators like Katie Cain, a high school teacher at Eastview Secondary School in Barrie, Ontario. In the winter of 2021, she was teaching a leadership class when she introduced CFP and the Amka Arts Project to her students. The mask-muzzled students, who had spent a good portion of their year learning from the confines of their homes, were eager to connect with kids in Iringa, Tanzania.

The kids on either end of the digital portal were instantly connected in more ways than one. They found common interests in music, dance, videography, food, pop culture, and more. A classroom of teenagers from Barrie, Ontario, a small, snow-covered city in middle Canada, and a group of young street kids in palm-dotted Iringa, Tanzania were connecting, bonding, and solving problems together. It is the zero waste and youth to youth connectivity that sets CFP apart from other programs.

© AMKA ARTS / Elephant Thoughts

“The Child Freedom Project taught students that to create change and find solutions to global issues, we need to work together,” says Katie Cain. “I was astonished by the resiliency of both the leadership students and the kids in Iringa to overcome so many obstacles, from language barriers to connectivity issues, COVID, and an 8-hour time difference. The students were so passionate and immersed in the project that they were finding solutions to the problems independent of me.”

Elephant Thoughts continues to foster meaningful connections like the one made between Eastview and Amka. The program is ready for teachers to sign up and start informing small but mighty and meaningful changes in their classrooms and across the globe.

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At the heart of Elephant Thoughts lies a global development organization. We started out as a small charity wanting to make big changes in the developing world by connecting students at home to the most remote communities in need abroad.


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