When Westfield 7th grader Dori Kaplan heard during a camp presentation that there were kids her age – and younger – who were child slaves in Ghana, she wanted to do something to help. “I felt bad that these kids didn’t get enough food or education, and had to work all the time. I wanted to see what I could do,” Kaplan said. She adopted this as her Bat Mitzvah project and began selling her hand-made beaded jewelry, raising $1,600 so far for Breaking the Chains through Education (BTCTE). The nonprofit buys the freedom of child slaves, reuniting them with their families, and helping them get education and enough food for the family.

Wanting others to hear what she heard at camp, she’s arranged for BTCTE founder Evan Robbins to speak at her Cranford synagogue this January. Robbins will show slides of the kids helped by BTCTE in Ghana, talking about the country’s child trafficking problem and what’s being done to stop it. The talk, free of charge and open to the public, is on Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 10:30 a.m., at Temple Beth El Mekor Chayim (338 Walnut Avenue, Cranford).

Robbins, a Metuchen High School social studies teacher and New Jersey Y camp division head, founded the 501(c)3 nonprofit, BTCTE, in 2011. As early as 2007, he and his high school students started raising money for other organizations to help these kids. Since then, Robbins visited Ghana several times with donors and his family, partnering with the International Organization for Migration to be on-the-ground support. In addition to the 30 kids freed, they’ll pay tuition for several of the kids to get higher education. BTCTE built a school for 250 kids, as well as teacher housing, and works with villages to find other ways to support their families without child trafficking.

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The parents who sold their kids to fishermen were told the kids would get food and education, something they could not provide, and that the kids would assist the fishermen as well. However the kids are not given what was promised, and are often injured or get ill from doing dangerous work on fishing boats at Lake Volta.

Robbins was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Award by the New Jersey Educators Association last February. Kaplan will introduce Robbins at the event, and will sell her jewelry, as well as BTCTE and African jewelry from Robbins’ recent trip, at the event.  RSVPs to the speaker event are welcome at babykap2000@hotmail.com.