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Students paint for child soldiers

Canyon High participates in awareness effort

Posted: October 28, 2008 9:42 p.m.
Updated: December 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Juniors Daniel Craig, standing, and James Nguyen hang students' hand prints during the Red Hand Campaign event held Oct. 9 at Canyon High School.

Dripping red hand prints dominated Canyon High School’s outdoor stage as other students waited for their turn to dunk their hands into globs of paint.

These students were not waiting for their chance to finger paint, but for the opportunity to join a global campaign.

The prevalence of the use of child soldiers in our world today may shock those living in the safe haven of Santa Clarita, but approximately 250,000 children are serving in the ranks of government and non-government forces in 20 countries.

Students from Canyon High identified this issue and organized a Child Soldiers Awareness assembly on Oct. 9 to educate their peers on the gross human rights violations committed against children forced into combat. The students are part of the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force, a youth leadership training program, which works with students in various Los Angeles County schools.

The program encourages students with a passion for human rights to work on behalf of children who are not protected against abuse and thus advocate for the protection of their human rights. The Student Task Force is part of the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, which monitors human rights abuses against children around the world and campaigns to end them.

Student Task Force students at Canyon High feel that the education of their peers about the abuse of child soldiers is of absolute necessity in preventing human rights violations. They organized the Child Soldiers Awareness assembly to communicate their sense of moral obligation to help end children’s engagement in combat.

“The assembly plays an essential roll in the education of our peers. The use of child soldiers is a major problem around the world, and needs to be stopped,” said Mariah Mahotz, an active member of Canyon High’s Student Task Force.

After the assembly, Canyon High students joined in participation with the International Red Hand Campaign, an international effort to bring awareness to this global crisis and support the current ban on using children in combat.

Although the use of children as soldiers has been prohibited according to an optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child since Feb. 12, 2002, hundreds of thousands of children still engage in combat.

The Red Hand Campaign was instigated by children and teenagers to show members of the U. N. the global opposition to the use of child soldiers.

The handprints are collected around the world, each stamped along with the owner’ name, city, state, and a message of hope. The goal of the campaign is to present one million red handprints to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York City on Red Hand Day, Feb. 12, 2009.

Megan Scherick is a junior at Canyon High School and the communications officer of the Student Task Force.


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