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Strong Without Leave

On Finding Your Voice in the Pro-Life Movement

By: Chad Hagel, NCLN Intern

In a recent conversation with a well-trusted advisor, we spoke about my positive qualities. One of these qualities was my strength of character; he emphasized that “it was something which set me apart from [other people] my age” and a quality that provided me with confidence. He explained that “strength of character” means not giving up and sticking to your beliefs. After the conversation, I took some time to look at how I showcased my strength of character in my daily life, noting with particular attention my journey in finding my voice in the pro-life movement.

Strength of character is essential to the pro-life movement, particularly if we want to be seen as leaders. Everything else comes from strength of character: passion, motivation and commitment to your cause. You can’t be a leader if you don’t have a small measure of confidence in yourself and aren’t afraid to speak up for what you believe. This carries an added weight in the pro-life movement, as we are committed to providing a voice for the voiceless.

Strength of character is something which everyone can grow in – it’s not something you’re just born with.

Speaking for myself, when I first became active in the pro-life movement, I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence. I could hardly approach a complete stranger during the QA Project and ask them about something I saw to be a controversial issue. When I stood outside buildings on campus, my voice would fade away, and I would be extremely hesitant to approach someone and talk to them.

Over the past couple years, though, this has changed. Although I still have times where I struggle with coming out of my shell (I am an introvert), I am increasingly unhesitant to share the truth about abortion when reaching out to both complete strangers and close friends.

How did I get to this point?

That’s what I would like to emphasize: how to build strength of character in the pro-life movement. That small bit of life-saving confidence. Here are some ideas:

  1. Attend pro-life apologetics training, either for yourself or with your club. This can be facilitated by contacting NCLN or another pro-life organization within Canada, such as the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR). I particularly recommend coming to NCLN’s Symposium in September!
  2. Get experience. If you have a pro-life club on your campus, great! Join it! Even though not all clubs have activism, all clubs need new people to bring spunk and vision to the organization and make sure the message never dies. You can implement NCLN’s QA Project on your campus, as well as look into introducing CCBR’s “Choice” Chain into your activism. Work alongsidethe local Right to Life groups in your area, if you are lucky to have them.
  3. Build relationships with like-minded organizations. Even if you don’t have a pro-life group on campus yet, there are plenty of opportunities to add your voice to the pro-life cause this summer and year-round. Your local Right to Life group is often the best place to begin and might be able to connect you with other pro-life groups. 40 Days for Life, enlisting the services of those in the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, and participating in CCBR’s “Choice” Chains are also brilliant ways to begin saving lives in the wider community.

Whatever words emerge as your pro-life voice, what’s important is that you take these words to heart.

You become what you embody. You become a leader. You develop strength of character, as you build up confidence in yourself and your message.

It will not be easy. But, as all of us at NCLN can testify, confidence comes with experience and a belief that you indeed have something of value to share, persevering in the face of tragedy and adversity. You can become strong without leave, and lead our world as the leaders of tomorrow, speaking as you do for the ones who cannot speak for themselves.

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Dialogue Series, Part 1

Over the next couple weeks, we will be sharing a series of posts that address many of the tough questions we encounter during our pro-life outreach. We hope to provide you with practical responses that help you not only understand how to respond, but also why we are addressing these concerns and questions in the first place.

However, even with the “right” answers tucked into your belt, pro-life outreach often includes being personally attacked. Regardless of the accusations made against us personally, there is one way in which we must always respond: with a heart full of love, reaching out to the other’s heart that is in need of healing and of hearing the truth. This initial blog post addresses this core foundation of our pro-life outreach and how you can live this out, even when faced with hostility.

Let Love Win:

Bringing our Hearts to our Pro-Life Outreach

Written by Joanna Krawczynski, Western Campus Coordinator

Sometimes, Life Chain can seem like a discouraging form of outreach. The only feedback we tend to receive at a Life Chain are honks, yells, and a variety of hand gestures. The high school students I was with during my most recent Life Chain event were the recipients of all the above – one student was even the victim of a drive-by drink throwing.

Luckily, the fellow who threw his unfinished iced coffee from his car window did not aim right, and his drink crashed between the curb and the highway, rather than on the bright purple shirt of the student. The other high school students on the sidewalk were understandably shaken and surrounded their friend with concern, “Are you okay?”

One girl asked, “Aren’t you mad?”

The student responded, “No… why should I be?” She laughed, “I mean, maybe he just thought I was thirsty!”

Grace abounds from the heart that is full of love.

That’s the only way I can understand this student’s gracious response to adversity.

One might be tempted to think that we have every right to be frustrated with the censorship and opposition we so often encounter. But how can a heart that is held captive by bitterness or anger be free to extend love?

After all, what kind of Canada do we want to grow old in?

Are we seeking to build a culture of hostility or of hospitality?

Reaching out to students at UBC-O
Students reaching out with the QA Project

And I’m not talking compromise – to be a voice of hope and healing requires that we recognize that something has been broken, that something has gone seriously awry and is in need of rescue.

And yes. Even when we approach each conversation with the kindest heart and the most sincere compassion, we will still face adversity. Many of the people to whom we are reaching out are standing on shaky foundations built on lies about their value and the value of human life. When we try to dismantle this, it is no wonder that we encounter reactions such as anger and are personally attacked with iced coffee or hurtful comments.

One afternoon, a fellow who identified as pro-choice told me, “I honestly hope you do not succeed. You will be hurting a lot of women in the process.”

As I mentioned then, dear student, and I repeat now, I honestly hope we do succeed in sharing this message of hope and healing. I personally know too many women who have been hurt by abortion. For their sake and for the lives of their little ones, we cannot keep silent.

In the words of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr, in his letter from the Birmingham jail,

“If I have said anything that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.”

Next time you engage in a conversation, ask yourself: What is motivating you to have this conversation? Are you speaking out of a true desire to heal the broken, or out of a need to win a debate? Further, when we encounter situations of hostility or adversity, how do we respond: with grace, or with grumbling? When we bring our hearts to pro-life outreach, even in situations of hostility, we really only have one option:

LET LOVE WIN.

 

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The Chalked Message Made Her Angry, But Then…

As a student at the University of Ottawa, Billie saw pro-life messages in chalk on her campus for the first time a couple of years ago. This is her story:

 

I used to be a radical pro-choicer

because that was my peer group and the rhetoric I heard from a young age.

 

A couple years ago, I was walking out of the cafeteria [at the University] and I saw the statistic about Down’s syndrome children being aborted. It was the first thing I saw. I saw it a couple times and tried not to think about it. After the third time, I let myself think about it and was angry. It must not be true.

I was angry at the pro-life club for chalking the messages but I didn’t know why I was angry.

I looked it up on the computer and found very official statistics that confirmed it was true. I was heartbroken because I’ve worked with special needs kids all my life – by choice. They’re already underestimated and discriminated against as it is.

Learning that fact and learning it was true was the catalyst to researching the issue more from both sides.

 

It took about 6 months before I called myself pro-life.

The more I read the more I learned I had been on the wrong side. I had to admit I was wrong.”

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Billie is now involved with uOttawa Students for Life, chalking these same messages on campus. Students across Canada shared the pro-life message through the Chalktober Campus Outreach Campaign this month. Photos to come!
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Overcoming Excuses


We hope you’ll continue running on your Symposium high (and for those who weren’t there you can read this recap!) But we know that reality hits once you get back to school and other commitments. Read this to get some practical pointers and motivation on how you can overcome excuses!

Written by Rebecca Richmond

Excuses, excuses…we hear them, we accept them, we’re irritated by them, we’re even guilty of making excuses ourselves. When it comes to the excuses to avoid pro-life involvement and campus outreach, we’ve heard them all.

In fact, this post was written in response to a suggestion from a student leader to address the topic of excuses in a blog post!

And whether you’ve heard these from yourselves or your friends or club members, the good news is that they’re normal AND they can be overcome. Here are our answers to the top excuses we’ve heard (or made…):

I need to put the priority on school. I just don’t have enough time.

Yes, yes do. We want you to pass your courses with flying colours and go into the world armed with your brains, your degree, and the heart of a nation-changer.

But even if that is your top priority, hopefully you have other priorities in your life still: your health, family, friends, etc. Students across Canada are also putting a priority on the lives of pre-born children and you can too – without flunking out.

There are sacrifices, to be sure, and the sacrifice of time is a steep one. But often, at least in our experience, the issue is not so much the time, but our time-management.

If we start to evaluate our schedules and consider where we put time and into what, we will likely find that, at least on occasion, what we’re spending time on doesn’t match our convictions. The reality is that we always have time for the things we make time for. If our hours with Netflix outweigh our hours of community service, then maybe we need to consider if our priorities match our convictions.

But you don’t have to manage this all alone. NCLN’s staff want to make your work on campus easier. Our resources, training, and mentoring are designed to do just that. Busy students work with our staff each semester in order to impact their campus – without dropping their GPA. (And we have helpful hints for time management too!)

There aren’t enough club members and I can’t do it all alone, so I just can’t do it this year.

Fact #1: There will probably never be enough club members to do all that needs to be done.

Fact #2: The little you do with a few people accomplishes much more than doing nothing would accomplish.

Fact #3: You’ll never attract members unless you actually do something in the first place.

The general principle is: start where you are with what you have.

And there’s so much that can be accomplished when you do! Contact your NCLN Campus Coordinator to help you find little things that you can do that can still have a big impact. There are projects that require practically no prep or cost, no booking, and as many or as few club members as you have – and yet still has an impact AND can help you recruit new members. We’d love to help you get started on them!

I support the cause but I’m focused on sharing the gospel on campus.

There are many good and important groups and causes that people should give time to. But involvement in one doesn’t mean you can’t support another (most if not all students we work with are in that situation!).

If our opposition to abortion – an act that is daily claiming the lives of Canadian children and is funded by our own tax dollars – does not manifest itself in anything except for an ‘I-support-pro-life-but’ statement, then how much does our conviction mean? This is not a charity, this is an emergency.

Maybe you can’t take on a leadership position within the pro-life club, and maybe the club’s weekly meeting is in conflict with another commitment you already made, but there’s other ways you can be an enormous support to the cause on campus:

-Volunteer at a weekly Outreach Table;
-Participate in clipboarding a couple times a month;
-Use your networks to bring friends out to club events.

Just a few hours here and there can be incredibly helpful to the club leadership and to your campus!

I’ll support the cause after graduation.

Unfortunately, abortions are still happening now and therefore our action is needed on our campuses now. Campuses contain the demographic most vulnerable to abortion as well as Canada’s future leaders. We need to be active on campus now in order to make sure these future leaders are well educated, that their hearts and minds are changed so that they can build a brighter future for Canada now and after graduation. We need to be active on campus now in order to reach out to those who may be faced with an untimely pregnancy, for their own sake and the sake of their pre-born children.

The problem with ‘tomorrow logic’ is that tomorrow ‘is always a day away’. If you train yourself now to put off urgent causes until tomorrow, then how will you have the character later to act and speak up?

Our character, our virtue, is formed by our habitual actions, the choices that we make. Our time at university is an ideal time to become pro-life leaders. Now, and not after graduation, is the time to learn the time management skills we need to complete our studies and give time to other priorities in our lives. Now, and not after graduation, is the time to choose to make small sacrifices, to practice courage within a controversial issue, to seek justice and mercy in our nation.

(After graduation is a great time to start supporting the work of NCLN as a monthly donor! Just thought we’d point that out. 😉 )

To reiterate the main points here, this cause is not a charity, it’s an emergency, and we need to match our convictions with action. But you’re not alone in trying to address this emergency: NCLN exists specifically to support you, to help you overcome the excuses you might hear from others (or occasionally feel tempted to make), and to make sure that you can be successful in your club and your classroom.

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Resolve to Reach Out

On butterflies, duffel bags, and the end of info tables

Written by Joanna Krawczynski

 

Okay, I’ll admit it: the idea of campus outreach, like clipboarding and tabling, does get my heart beating a faster out of excitement for these opportunities to reach my peers with the message of life.

Actually doing campus outreach… to be honest, that can get my heart beating for a different reason, racing with the cold determination of nervousness that makes me feel faint. Or nauseous. Or a combination of the two. Either way, I know I’m not the only one (feel free to sing along). However, I also know that if I do not give myself a swift kick in the pants and stop dwelling on worst-case scenarios, I will spend the rest of the afternoon hiding behind my info table or clipboard. And my campus will be poorer because of it.

Rewind a couple months.

It was my first time clipboarding – and we were downtown Vancouver. I was being ignored, misunderstood, turned away, and the courage I thought I had was steadily dwindling. Almost by accident, I walked into the conversation of two tradesmen from Quebec.Your shadows talk while you listenBoth carried grungy-looking duffel bags and wore wrinkled clothes as well as unshaven, though genuine, smiles. The eyes of the younger fellow lit up more often than his cigarette as he talked. The other fellow seemed old enough to be the father of the younger man. The older man’s deep, browned wrinkles told a part of his story that he did not seem ready to share then. His was a fatherly tone, though he was adamant that a woman should be able to abort her child if she will be unable to care for the child after birth. After about a half hour of conversation, I had to run to catch up with my clipboarding crew. But before I left the conversation, the younger fellow stopped me.

“Can I show you something?” he asked. “I want to show you a photo of my son.”

The man’s pride for this little one was unmistakable as he pulled out a school photo of his smiling seven year old, looking smart and bright-eyed. My heart just about melted. The young man shared that he was here on the other side of the country for this little guy, catching jobs to make their ends meet. I went home feeling helpless, torn between feelings of joy for the younger man’s determination to support his son, and sadness for the stubborn resolution of the older man, whose comments conveyed the perspective that children without caring parents are better off eliminated. To follow this logic is to say that it is a greater tragedy to be unwanted and alive, than to be unwanted – and killed. Fast forward about a month and a half. I’m just getting the hang of Vancouver’s transportation system, catching the skytrain home after a day of campus activism. My head is buzzing, trying to debrief the day’s conversations as well as make sure that I get on the right train. As I slide onto the train and carve out a place to stand, the smell of cigarettes makes me catch my breath. There is a pile of beaten-up bags at the feet of a fellow passenger. I lift my eyes, piecing together the baggy pants, layers of clothing, and a salt-and-pepper scruff crowning the unshaven face of a man with deep, browned wrinkles. “Bonjour, Monsieur…!” I greet the familiar face with astonishment.

His eyes wrinkle around the edges as he smiles back, “I did not think that you would recognize me.”

Of course I recognized him, though I was definitely not expecting to see this man, the older tradesman from that afternoon of clipboarding, ever again. The man shared how he was heading back to Montreal after traveling all across Canada for work. The man then paused, motioning to his bags,

“You know, I’ve been here in Vancouver, on the streets. No home or apartment. My sleeping bag is in there.”

SW 3rd Avenue
The duffel bag lay sprawled at his feet. The man glanced back at me and continued, “You know, my kids, I’ve got five of them. My kids, they are all grown up and established. I gave them all I could. Now it is time for me to live my life.”

Hold on. Where are his children now, and why don’t they seem to care that their father is living on the streets? My heart ached as this man shared the story his wrinkles betray.

How did I not see this earlier? His earlier assertion that an unwanted life is better off destroyed came from a deeply personal place, a place beaten up and worn like the baggage at his feet.

I wanted to do something to help this man, to show him his worth, but the best I could do was to learn his name, shake his hand, and wish him well, as we both had another train to catch.

Reflecting on this, I realize that we have an incredible opportunity as pro-life leaders. We have peers who also carry around with them that heavy feeling of being unwanted. Like the student who was abandoned by his father when his mother decided to give him life. Or the girl whose parents remind her daily that she is not the boy they wanted.

But how can we help our peers to see the value of their lives, if we let the butterflies in our stomachs keep us from reaching out to initiate a conversation?

Okay, granted – maybe they don’t have time for a conversation. Are we doing any harm by wishing them a good day?

Brochures and pamphlets are helpful resources to have on hand, and an info table can be an effective background tool,

but there is a reason why we work with student leaders, not printing machines.

In our activism, let us resolve to reach out and, in doing so, touch the heart of another. We have the opportunity – indeed, the responsibility – to encourage our peers to recognize the value of their own lives, to be voices declaring the profound truth that every life is wanted.

Without exception.
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Avoiding the Pitfalls of Slacktivism

Written by Anastasia Pearse, Western Campus Coordinator

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Have you fallen prey to the slacktivist mentality?

Wikipedia tells us that the term slacktivism “describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed.”

Examples? Signing an online petition, ‘liking’ a Facebook post, re-tweeting an article, or sharing a video or an article on your page. These are all activities that, although they may be well intentioned evolve around good causes, cannot substitute old-fashioned, real-world active participation in a cause. These “actions” may ease our guilt of being inactive in a cause, but one cannot simply “like” a Facebook post and then wipe our hands and say our work is done. However: this could be a good first step.

Can we use this slacktivist mentality for the greater good?

We need to meet people where they are at right now. Given our technology-saturated culture, most people are probably currently on their computers or smartphones. So let’s start where they are, and move them to action with a touch of their screen or a click of a mouse. But I know that human beings are capable of much more than moving their fingers.

Don’t get me wrong – keep liking and sharing our NCLN Facebook posts and re-tweeting our tweets! Your social media feed may be the first and only place that someone in your network hears the pro-life message. But don’t stop there. Talk face to face with someone about what you have heard or learned.

My challenge to you:

READ this post. LIKE it on our National Campus Life Network page. SHARE it on your page. But don’t stop there. I challenge you to speak to TWO PEOPLE this week about abortion. They could be friends or classmates who you’ve never spoken to about the issue, or even the person next to you on the bus.  Share your truth-sharing conversations with the hashtag #2PersonChallenge – you’ll be surprised as to what a difference one conversation can make in someone’s attitude towards abortion. Share these stories on social media and in the comments below!

Your story can be a simple impacting moment, such as this student’s story:

After telling my classmate that I was headed to a pro-life club meeting, I asked her what she thought about abortion. After I discussed the humanity of the pre-born with her, she was amazed at their development so early in the pregnancy, and couldn’t believe that there are no abortion laws in Canada! #2PersonChallenge

Move your club members to action, as well as those two people you reach out to, by encouraging them to take up the #2PersonChallenge as well! If each of us takes on this challenge, think of how our efforts will multiply!

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Faces of the Pro-Life Movement

Written by Meagan Nijenhuis, Summer Intern

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The Symposium introduced me to the people working the front lines of the Pro-Life Movement: other students leading campus clubs from across Canada and men and women leading organizations full-time. The people were so incredibly friendly; they were absolutely delighted to meet you. And when I went on the Florida GAP tour in February, my travel-weary self was immediately greeted by at least 4 different smiling faces asking me: “Would you like to play cards?”, “How was your flight?” “When did you last eat?”, “Oh, wait… what’s your name? Where are you from?”. Our Movement is all about loving and caring for people. We see the value in the person next to us.

But how do people on the outside see us?

They are fed the popular media’s bias. To them, we are the cold-hearted “anti-aborts” with the sole desire of withholding rights from women. We are stereotyped. Many assumptions are made. Let’s bust this stereotype and show our campuses the true faces of the Pro-Life Movement.

This is just another reason to do more activism on your campus: more and more people will have the, “Oh, I didn’t expect to have such a great conversation with you” moment. They won’t be able to paint our smiling faces with a negative stereotype anymore. When they read about the Movement in the media, they’ll have that personal connection.

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The first time many people on your campus will personally meet someone from the Pro-Life Movement is at your pro-life event, whether it be tabling, clip-boarding, running a debate or having a speaker come in. How will you change their perspective of you? I was taught by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform that “It doesn’t necessarily matter what you say to them but how you treat them. That’s what they’ll remember.” Not everyone is easy to connect and communicate with but it’s absolutely imperative that we have the same love and value for the person we’re defending the preborn children’s cause to as we have for the preborn children themselves. There’s no way they will even begin to take you seriously if you don’t make loving them a top priority.

One of the ultimate ways to show you value them is to listen intently (rather than just waiting to speak). Understand their concerns. There may be a lot that they’re not telling you. With Canada’s 26 years of entirely unlegislated abortion, many have been direct victims of the culture of death. Many young people know a woman who’s had an abortion: a family friend, their own mother or even themselves. With the highest number of abortions being performed on women of university age, we are ministering to people who’ve been ravaged by “choice.” These young men and women desperately need a smiling open face and a listening heart. And that’s where we come in.

 

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BC SNMAC Tour – A Week in Review

Written by Anastasia Pearse

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2 NCLN Staff Members, 4 Speakers, 5 Days, 7 Campuses and Over 10,000 Students Reached!

I first came into contact with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (SNMAC) in 2009 when I attended the NCLN Symposium in Toronto. I was moved to tears by the story of Angelina Steenstra, National Director of the Campaign in Canada, shared with us. The circumstances that led to her abortion, the regret and pain that followed, and her journey to healing opened my eyes in a new way to the pain that so many students on our university campuses feel because of abortion. With our age demographic – that of university students – undergoing the most abortions, it was clear that this message is so needed on Canadian campuses. But with our club in Victoria, it seemed too difficult to bring the campaign to campus. 

photo 2 (1)The next year, an NCLN staff member based out of Vancouver coordinated a tour of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign to several British Columbian campuses. My club in Victoria jumped at the chance to have them on campus and I saw firsthand the impact that the testimonials of the speakers had on students.

Now, several years later, as an NCLN staff member, I was determined to help bring the campaign once again to campuses in BC. After months of planning, we had seven campus groups on board, four speakers confirmed, and pleasant weather in the forecast, and I was ready for a fruitful week of sharing the campaign.  But even from the very first day, I could tell this was more than fruitful: it was life-changing.

On their campuses, the clubs booked outdoor space in high traffic areas. We reached students through our resource tables as well as through posters stating “Women Do Regret Abortion,” “Men Regret Lost Fatherhood,” and “A Pregnant Woman Needs Support, Not Abortion.” The speakers shared their stories of abortion and their journeys of healing through a sound system, helping extend the reach of their message. Students walking by would stop to listen: sometimes they paused for a moment, sometimes for a minute, and often for the entire presentation. Club members, as well as myself and my colleague Kathleen Dunn, were on hand to distribute information as well as engage with our peers in conversation.

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Some students, after hearing the message and talking to one of us, left with resources in hand, seeking to give them to people they knew who had experienced abortion, or to use themselves as they started on a path to healing. We saw lives transformed in front of us with women breaking their silence about their abortion stories – one woman after 50 years – and leaving with a sense of hope. We estimate that we reached over 10,000 students in those 5 days, not including those who encountered the message through student newspaper coverage, discussions in their classrooms, and social media discussion.

The campaign’s impact also extended to the pro-life students and to the speakers themselves. The pro-life students saw the reach the campaign had and were even more convicted and encouraged to be active in sharing the pro-life message. The speakers shared their testimonies multiple times over the 5 days, but by the end of the week felt more fulfilled than fatigued, as they saw the impact they had, and felt the support from each other.

For myself, I was truly inspired: inspired by the speakers’ heart-felt witness to the cause; inspired by the pro-life students’ energy and determination to reach out with the message; and inspired by the students who were open to listening to our message and sharing their stories with us.

It is heart-wrenching to encounter so many young men and women who have been hurt by abortion, but I have a great deal of hope for our generation. I have hope because I see pro-life students becoming leaders who are reaching out with compassion to help their peers, and I have hope because I have seen firsthand how the pro-life message is touching students on campus.
Thank you to all those who supported this campaign! If you’d like to help continue making these campaigns possible, please consider supporting our work financially: www.ncln.ca/donate

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To hear the testimonies that were heard on BC Campuses, visit our Youtube Channel! 

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To see more pictures from the Campus Tour, visit our Facebook page!

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