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Teens ride bikes for child soldiers

A few years ago, Ottawa resident Benjamin Gunn-Doerge travelled overseas to work with the organization Free the Children.

A few years ago, Ottawa resident Benjamin Gunn-Doerge travelled overseas to work with the organization Free the Children.

“They said to learn all you can about one issue,” said Gunn-Doerge. “When you’re educated, you can make the biggest possible change.”

Around that time, he heard about child soldiering.

“Being a child myself, I thought it was terrible that children were being deprived of their childhoods,” he said.

Now 18, Gunn-Doerge and four friends formed Child Soldier Cycle earlier this year and are planning a bike trip from Ottawa to St. John’s, N.L. next month to raise awareness of the issue of child soldiering.

“There are many countries all over the world that have child soldiering,” said Gunn-Doerge, who recently graduated from Immaculata High School.

“Children are kidnapped from their homes. Girls are taken as sex slaves, while boys are forced to fight. The youngest recorded child soldier is five years old — barely big enough to hold an AK-47.”

Child soldiering has been recorded in Sierra Leone, Uganda, Asia and Colombia, he said.

Teammate Philip Schleihauf, 19, will be doing the trip on unicycle. This is Schleihauf’s last leg of a cross-Canada journey that when complete, will make him the second person ever to cross Canada by unicycle.

The group also includes Ottawa natives Sandy Macdonald, 15, Jamie Macdonald, 18, and Matthieu Halle, 18.