It all started, said teacher Brady Van Ry, when his Grade 9 students at Edmonton Northeast Christian School talked about the Syrian refugee crisis in their social studies class.
“Given the media coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis, the issue inevitably came front and center in many of our social studies discussions,” he explained. “In Grade 9, we often discuss how we can seek justice where there is injustice and how we can build community where there is brokenness. This is the lens [through which] we look at our curricular topics. So when this issue came up, my students simply could not ignore the scale and significance of this human suffering and felt compelled to do something. While my class—and our school—has a range of views on what Canada’s role should be in aiding refugees, there was no doubt in my students’ minds that at the very least we need to care for them in the places where they are now.”
When the students learned that World Renew was working with refugees around the world and that just $65 could buy a month’s supply of food for a family of six, they believed they could do something. And when they heard that the Canadian government had pledged to match donations made to charitable organizations for Syrian refugees—up to $100 million dollars before December 3—they couldn’t resist the challenge.
Over the span of a month, the students worked hard to raise money for World Renew. Their goal was to raise enough funds, including the government’s matching funds, to feed as many refugee families as there are families at Edmonton Northeast Christian School. That would mean raising roughly $12,000.
The entire school got involved. Elementary classes brought in loose change; Grade 9 students canvassed neighborhoods, donated their own dollars, and gave presentations in their churches; and some junior high classes organized fundraising events. The parent council and parents contributed funds; staff auctioned baked goods in the staffroom. Including online donations, the students raised $10,582.65.
Aidan Huisman and Eve Salomons are two of the Grade 9 students involved. “These (Syrian refugees) are people just like us,” Huisman said. “You know, if we were in that situation we’d want people to help us too.” He went on, “It was a really neat learning experience. Now that we have learned all this stuff, if something else goes wrong in the world maybe we’ll be able to make a difference there too.” Salomons reflected, “It’s such a feeling to realize that what you are doing actually has an affect. It’s not just, ‘well, that’s a nice thing to do,’ but you are seriously helping people.”
“Though we didn't quite make our goal,” concluded Van Ry, “the students were still blown away by the involvement of the community and the overall success of the event.”
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