Jayden Sprangers is no stranger to hard work.
The fourteen-year-old has been working on his family’s farm, doing odd jobs, practically since birth. But this spring, he’ll be challenged with a job like no other.
Jayden, along with a team of 18 others from Mt. Slesse middle school, is going to build a school in Kenya.
While admittedly the extent of Jayden’s actual building experience is nothing more than a wobbly pillow fort, he can’t wait to get his hands dirty.
“I’ve always wanted to help people out in some way,” said the Grade 9 student. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hope it will give me more leadership skills and show me more about what the world is like outside of North America.”
The Kenyan school project is part of Me to We.
Me to We is an organization, founded by Canadian brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger, that works to empower change, helping people make a direct, positive social and or environmental impact on the world. Me to We is under the umbrella of Free The Children that hosts the annual We Day event in Vancouver.
At this year’s We Day, local schools were challenged to support the organization’s goal of building 200 schools in developing communities around the world by the end of 2014.
Each school built, large enough for 55 students, costs $10,000; $20 per brick.
For some schools, that financial commitment proved too daunting. So, for Chilliwack, rather then work solo, 13 schools combined forces to build one school in Kenya.
“Some of the schools in our district, like Greendale, are smaller and it would have been impossible for them to have raised the $10,000 on their own,” said Mt. Slesse leadership teacher Sandi Rae.
But together, Rae had no doubt they’d achieve their goal.
So far, the collective has raised $7,645 – just $2,355 shy of their goal.
Since October, the schools have held several fundraisers including a Christmas child-minding day camp; a movie day at Cottonwood Mall; bake sales; ice cream sales; dances; and more.
Likely the most impressive was the anti-bullying day T-shirts fundraiser.
Two students, one at Mt. Slesse middle and the other at Promontory elementary, came up with designs for pink shirts that were sold at $10 a piece.
The fundraiser amassed a whopping $3,200.
“Our community [of schools] is going to be helping a whole community,” said Rae. “The importance we’re going to have is long lasting.”
For Grade 9 student Maegan Emmons, the initiative has completely changed her perspective.
“We complain about having to go to school, but these girls [in Kenya] can’t,” said Emmons. “I feel so bad because these people should have a right to education, but they don’t. It makes you thankful for the things we have.”
The build a school campaign isn’t a hand-out, it’s a hand-up.
Free the Children focuses on education as the highest return of social investment. However, it doesn’t just build a school, it works with the countries to create programming and initiatives to ensure education is maintained over the longterm.
The organization also improves access to clean water, sanitation, and health care. It provides families with the resources to generate a sustainable source of income that includes training, support and workshops. It educates communities on food security through innovative farming techniques suitable to each community.
“It’s like giving them a stepping stool so they can climb up and keep getting better and better,” said Emmons.
“And maybe one day, when they’re in a better position, they’ll be able to help others too,” added Grade 9 student Emma Boutilier. “Like a chain reaction.”
The collective is continuing toward its goal and hopes to have the $10,000 raised by June.
The next fundraiser is a skating party by donation at Prospera Centre on March 27 from 4 to 5:30 p.m..
DRIVE 4 UR SCHOOL:
The team going to Kenya is holding a Drive 4 UR School fundraiser on Saturday, March 8 in the parking lot at Mt. Slesse middle school from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m..
The event is sponsored by Ford Motor Company and includes a test drive of a vehicle – for free. For every test drive completed, Ford donates $20 to the school to a maximum of $6,000.
All proceeds will go towards the cost of the 11-day trip, which is over $5,000 per student including vaccinations, medications, and tour costs.
The team is going to Maasai Mara, Kenya from March 15-25.
It will be the first Chilliwack school to travel to the country.
For more information, contact Mt. Slesse middle school at 604-824-7481.