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Teens take vow of silence
Fort Providence high school students participate in human rights event

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, December 8, 2011

In what many would consider a remarkable feat for teenagers, approximately 26 high school students at Deh Gah School chose to be silent on Nov. 30.

NNSL photo/graphic

High school students at Deh Gah School refrain from talking as part of a human rights campaign last month. Participants included, front, Joseph Antoine; second row, from left, Brandon Thom, Mikaela Vandell, Erin Nadli, and Jeanine Minoza; third row, from left, Christina Bonnetrouge, Rochella Sanderson, Candace Minoza and Amanda Simba; fourth row, from left, Delaney Vandell, Nolan Bonnetrouge, Jordan Sabourin and Rodgerick Yakinneah; back, Derek Vandell. - photo courtesy of Jim Snider

The students were participating in the Vow of Silence, an annual fundraising and awareness raising campaign organized by Free the Children, an international advocacy group. The event is designed to engage people to stand up for children whose basic human rights aren't being met. Erin Nadli, 16, organized the school's participation in the event.

On Nov. 29, Nadli and Jim Snider, the school's vice-principal, gave a presentation to the high school students, discussing why they should take a vow of silence. Nadli said according to Free the Children, 121 million children worldwide are not receiving a formal education.

Students were given the options to not speak, use Facebook or e-mail, or a combination of all three, for as long as they wanted on Nov. 30.

"It was just to raise awareness about what is happening," said Nadli.

Nadli said there are a lot of kids in other parts of the world who are forced into labour, aren't receiving an education and don't have a chance to speak up. To show solidarity with them, she chose not to speak, use Facebook or e-mail for 24 hours.

Of the students who made that vow, she was the only one who succeeded. Nadli stayed home from school that day to help her avoid breaking her vow.

"It was hard," she said.

Many students who took a vow of silence wore a strip of tape across their mouths to prevent them from talking. Mikaela Vandell, 12, vowed not to talk for 10 hours.

Vandell broke her vow three times during her first class when she forgot she wasn't supposed to speak, but after she got a piece of tape she made it through the rest of the day.

"It was really hard because I'm usually talking a lot," she said.

Vandell said the Vow of Silence gave her a sense of what it's like for exploited children.

"I felt it was really hard for them and they were so young and had to go through that," she said.

Classmate Delaney Vandell, 12, said she decided to participate because some kids don't get the chance to learn the things she is learning in school.

Delaney lasted without speaking until approximately 4:30 p.m.

"You wanted to talk but you can't," she said.

In addition to not talking, Christina Bonnetrouge, 13, vowed not to use Facebook. Bonnetrouge had her mother put a password on her family's computer so she couldn't use it. All of the students said they are looking forward to participating in the Vow of Silence again next year.

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