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California Boy Starts Charity to Rescue Ghanaian Children

Tyler Page, 11, lives in an upper middle class neighborhood in northern California. Like most of his neighbors, he has almost everything he could ever wish for: toys, clothing and fun vacations, as well as a big house and plenty of food. But he spends much of his free time helping other kids who have nothing. Tyler started a charity to help Ghanaian children.

Tyler Page still vividly remembers the TV story that, he says, changed his life. It was on Oprah Winfrey's show, titled, "The Little Boy Oprah Couldn't Forget."

"They were featuring a story on child trafficking," he says. "These fishermen were going to people's houses, buying kids from their own parents for as little as $20 and telling the parents that they will be learning a trade, that they will come back to their houses and help raise money for their parents."

The story went on to explain that many of these children never see their parents again, and they are abused by the traffickers.

"They were actually making them walk for hundreds of miles to a lake," he says. "They have to go out in canoes and retrieve fish. It's very dangerous. Some of them drown."

While watching the show, Tyler started asking his mother, Laura, many questions about why the government would allow that to happen.

"Before the show was over," she recalls, "he asked if he could do fundraisers to raise $420 to keep one child out of trafficking for a whole year."

Tyler says he and his mother sat down and thought of some ways to raise the money. The idea was to send the money to Oprah who would send it to the International Organization of Migration to use to buy the children from the fishermen.

When Tyler took the idea to classmates and teachers at school, everybody loved it and wanted to help. He says they have held various events to raise money.

"That were carwashes, lemonade stands, cookie sales, ice cream sales," he says. "I thought we were only going to raise $100, but we raised $38,000."

The positive response, he says, inspired him to found a charitable organization, Kids Helping Kids, to keep the momentum going. Tyler's younger brother Ryan and four of Tyler's friends, Jourdin, Travis, Bryce and Faith, are the core members of Kids Helping Kids. Although it takes a lot time and effort, they say they are happy to volunteer.

"It makes me feel good that I'm helping kids all the way across the world," one says.

"It makes me feel like a hero, because you're helping someone get back to their family," says another.

"It makes me feel good by saving kids in child trafficking and being able to see pictures of them smiling," says a third.

Faith Schenck, 9, says their donations to the Ghanaian children have included gifts.

"We did this in one of our fundraisers, when we got backpacks," she says. "We filled them with school supplies, gum and fun things like this."

And they hear back from their faraway friends, she says.

"They sent back cards, home made cards," she says. "It's just really, really fun because you can also write to pen pals in Africa. I actually have 2 pen pals, one is 6 and one is 11."

Faith says she has sent her pen pals stickers and books, but not money, "because if you send them money you're putting them in danger because they will get robbed."

Faith's mother, Kim Schenck, says being part of this group raised her daughter's awareness of her ability to help others, making her more compassionate and responsible.

"My daughter is here by choice," she says. "I think that she is learning to give of herself to volunteer, to give of her time and not to be selfish, to love others who have nothing."

Kids Helping Kids has started other projects extending help to people in need in local communities. But freeing Ghanaian children from forced labor, Tyler Page says, is still the main focus of their efforts. More than 300 local kids have helped raise money for this cause. Hundreds more are visiting the group's web site to donate money or get advice on how to start their own fundraisers.