Breakfast in BedMany parents are wakened on special occasions by an ominous clattering in the kitchen: loving-hearted children preparing to surprise us with coffee or hot chocolate in bed.  There’s also that cinnamon toast or oatmeal positively doused with sugar.

What many parents don’t realize is that such meals usually come courtesy of a whole crew of children.  Chocolate, coffee and sugar are often harvested by kids in developing countries.  Some children are even trafficked – taken from their parents to be sold into slavery – onto plantations far from home.  Others are forced into labour to help put food on the table at home.

Most Canadian parents struggle to keep costs down, yet our lower prices here are made possible by low pay overseas.  Many children are forced to work for no pay, making our price tags even more appealing.  Take cocoa for instance.

“An estimated 1.8 million children work to provide the world with its cocoa, in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana,” says World Vision Canada’s Cheryl Hotchkiss.  Hotchkiss explains that child workers are often trafficked – kidnapped and sold – into labour.  They work in brutally dangerous conditions, with sharp machetes and toxic chemicals.  Many are physically abused so they’ll work harder.  Few are given adequate food or rest.

It’s easier to snuggle down under our covers than admit we live in a world where child labour is still prevalent.  But it’s also pretty simple to do something to help change things.  Fair trade cocoa, coffee, tea and sugar are available in many grocery stories.  While they cost more, the payoff is much greater than a mouthful of sweetness.

“We made it into a field trip,” says Toronto mom Debbie Wolfe, of her first fair trade shopping trip with her two sons. “We stood in the grocery aisle, read the labels, and talked about how we’d be helping a real child and his family.”

“We’ve never enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate so much.”

To learn more ways to help end child slavery, visit

Disclosure: This post was made possible through efforts of World Vision Canada.