Girls leading crusade against child abuse

February 15, 1996|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

Sarah Raymond wants to send a message to adults: If you aren't going to protect us from child abuse, we'll take care of ourselves.

Sarah, a 12-year-old victim of abuse, is the force behind a children's crusade that aims to reach every county middle school with the self-help program.

Yesterday at Corkran Middle School, Sarah and classmate Meghan Kelly, 12, began the Caring Kids Campaign and invited county students to join their campaign with the People Against Child Abuse (PACA), a nonprofit agency in Annapolis.

The girls explained their campaign to students from Southern, Old Mill and Bates middle schools who will serve as local coordinators. The children came from different backgrounds. Some said they, too, had experienced child abuse. Others said they just wanted to help.

The first project is to design a pocket-size Caring Kids Calendar that children can carry in their notebooks.

The two girls want their peers to submit drawings or writings about child abuse; the winners will be used in the next calendar that covers August 1996 through September 1997.

Sarah and Meghan have to raise about $30,000 to pay for 16,000 calendars and other promotional items. They have applied for a grant from the Kellogg Foundation's Youth Rise program and have asked the Annapolis City Council for money.

Two years ago, Sarah and her 11-year-old brother were the victims of mental and verbal abuse by a family member, said their mother, Anne E. Lamb.

Sarah gave a speech about child abuse in August when she was a contestant in the Miss Pre-Teen America Scholarship and Recognition pageant. She met Meghan, another contestant, there, and they decided to work together on her idea.

With the help of her enrichment teacher, Mary Ellen Ouslander, Sarah took her proposal to PACA last September.

"I think we showed PACA that middle school students have a voice and they want to be heard," Mrs. Ouslander said.

Gloria Goldfaden, executive director of PACA, said she was excited that children were tackling such a complicated and sticky subject.

Ms. Goldfaden said the girls have a serious message: "If we adults aren't going to be able to protect them fully, they're going to start protecting themselves and take the responsibility for providing themselves with safe homes and schools."

The program has five goals: stop child abuse; prevent violence; help peers, family members and communities work together; help students become more active and involved members of the community; and develop communication and professional skills.

PACA is offering guidance to the two girls and plans to hold its first conference on child abuse run by children in Annapolis in the fall.

Next month, Sarah and Meghan will be guests on the Fox 45 television show "Straight Talk." They hope to finish their calendar campaign by May.

PACA has a toll-free number for abused children: (1-800-CHILDREN).

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