WSA student goes from local to global
June 10, 2008 · Updated 7:17 PM
SUQUAMISH During Christmas when she was 6 years old, Suquamish resident Amber Mathisen took all of her neatly wrapped presents and did the unthinkable with them.
Mathisen, who had just found out what foster kids her age received for presents a pair of socks, chocolate bar and candy canes took hers to Bremerton and gave them all to the Frances Haddon Morgan Foster Care Center.
Literally, she took everything out from under the tree with her name on it, said her mother, Tami Mathisen. She took everything she had without even opening it.
Ever since, Amber has been dedicated to helping children in Kitsap County. And now, as a 15-year-old sophomore at West Sound Academy, shes decided to take her cause a step further.
Mathisen has been selected to go on a four-summer journey fighting for childrens rights and against slavery through a global organization called Free the Children. Starting in Mexico this summer, shell then travel to Thailand in 2005, Kenya in 2006 and finish with a full internship at the United Nations during her senior year in 2007.
Shes always been really involved in childrens issues, Tami Mathisen said. And now shell bring back information and skills from her experiences to empower other kids to take small steps and make an impact.
According to Freethechildren. org, 8.4 million children are trapped in slavery, trafficking, debt bondage, prostitution, pornography and other illicit activities throughout the world. Amber said she recalls being outraged to learn that there were children her age in the world still enslaved.
I just remember someone saying to me, Hey, by the way, this was made by a slave, Mathisen recalled. I said, No way you mean 4,000 years ago? And they said no now.
Founded by then 12-year-old Craig Kielburg, Free the Children has grown during its nine-year history to include many action groups and generated thousands of dollars for charity to support childrens rights.
Since being invited to the four-year program, Mathisen has been doing anything and everything from washing cars and painting fences to mowing lawns to fund the trip. Her drive is spurred from a confidence in knowing she can make a difference in the world, Mathisen commented.
Before (this project) I thought, no ones going to listen to me Im just a kid, she said. And then my mom bought me Craigs book, and it said, Kids can make a difference theyre not just small people that can be bossed around.
Her concern for childrens causes stems from her work at school as well, said Kim Bush, Mathisens humanities teacher at West Sound Academy.
In her interest in child slavery issues, it was pretty clear that she wanted to do more than just read about it, Bush said. Ambers taken this (cause) a step further by lining her summers up and doing something that engages herself.
Mathisen will start in Nogales, Mexico for almost a month beginning July 12. While staying with a host family, shell be working in different orphanages and a drug rehabilitation center in the city, located just across the United States border at Arizona.
I dont really know what Im going to see, Mathisen said of her upcoming trip. But I know it will affect my life. Seeing children that have absolutely nothing is really going to be a wake-up call.
Next year in Thailand, shell be working to help young women stuck in the countrys sex trade. And in Kenya, shell have an HIV-related project, in the African country that has the highest concentration of the virus in the world.
Each year she returns from her journeys, Mathisen will use her new skills to help create her WSA long-term project. But more than anything else, she hopes to make an impact on the problem that plagues the world to this day.
It pretty much made me mad, Amber said as she recalled learning of modern child slavery. So, Im going to stop it eventually.