While most Chilliwack students spent their Spring Break relaxing with friends or going on family vacations to ski slopes or sandy beaches, a small group were building an elementary school.
The group of 15 students and two educators from five Chilliwack schools travelled to Nicaragua for a 10-day Free the Children volunteer service trip.
Through the Adopt a Village program, Free the Children aims to provide all children with access to education, by mitigating the causes of child labour. They work with impoverished communities to build water wells and healthcare centres, and they train the locals in ways to achieve food sustainability and financial independence through alternative forms of income.
As the children gain the freedom to focus on their education instead of worrying about achieving their basic survival needs, volunteer groups come in to help build the schools themselves.
In Nicaragua in 2016 and in Kenya in 2014, Chilliwack students have put in the hard labour to allow local children and youth the opportunity to get an education. And they’re getting ready to do it all again, this time – in Tanzania.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Grade 7 student Sayer Redden said of the upcoming trip. “Going to Africa is cool. But going and actually doing something, it’s more meaningful.”
Sandi Rae is a teacher at Mt. Slesse and the coordinator of the 12 We Schools in the Chilliwack district. Each We School commits to contributing to local causes, like a Terry Fox Run or an SPCA fundraiser, and they also commit to at least one global act.
According to Free the Children, the average cost to build a single-grade classroom that can hold 40 students is $10,000. For the previous service trips, Chilliwack students have sold everything from petunias, to chocolates to chicken.
This year, Ford will be giving them a huge jump-start to their fundraising goal.
As one of 100 selected sites across Canada, the Drive 4UR Community event on Saturday at Mt. Slesse Middle School has the potential to raise thousands of dollars.
“This is a great one because the community doesn’t have to buy anything,” Rae explained. “It’s just people’s time that we need.”
One driver per-household will get the keys to a Ford and take it for a spin around the block. For every valid test drive on Saturday, Ford will donate $20 to the cause.
While the Kenya trip only included students from Mt. Slesse, the students already signed-up for the Tanzania trip in 2018 represent seven Chilliwack schools, and there’s room for more.
As the Chilliwack community may recognize, this event is similar to Ford’s past Drive 4UR School events that raised funds for a particular school, to go towards a playground, athletic gear, or class materials. But this event is different, and it will make an incredible impact in the lives of the less-fortunate young students in Tanzania.
“Ford is providing the funds to help us build the school. We’re providing the labour. All we need is for the Chilliwack community to give ten minutes of their time,” Rae said. The students who volunteer to go on the service trips are responsible for covering their personal travel costs.
In addition to putting in the work to build the school, participating students will be working together with community members to learn about local resources, economics and the impact the school is having on the community.
They’ll be immersed in the culture by spending time with locals, experiencing a village water walk, and learning Swahili. Nightly activities and workshops will allow them to investigate global issues and explore social justice.
It’s an eye-opening experience unlike anything you could learn in a classroom.
“When they go up, [the students] think that they’re going to make a difference in other kids’ lives, and they do. But really, it’s them who come back changed,” Rae pointed out.
The students understand the importance of clean water, access to healthcare, and sustainable food sources by living in a part of the world where access to those amenities is greatly limited. Furthermore, they recognize the significance of education, and the plethora of hurdles that others face in order to obtain it.
“The students definitely don’t take our education system for granted when they return. They are very grateful for what they have,” Rae added.
Rae hopes that the entire community can embrace the Drive 4UR Community event, as students from all across Chilliwack will be attending the service trip.
“It’d be nice if all families who have or have had kids in the school system – who’ve had that opportunity to go to school and learn –could help us give that opportunity to other girls and boys.”
Drive 4UR Community takes place Saturday, May 7 at Mt. Slesse Middle School (5871 Tyson Road) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public can drop-in for a test drive or they can pre-register online at www.drive4ur.com.
Parents and students can learn more about the 2018 Tanzania trip by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ford of Canada has decided to match all donations raised from the Drive 4UR Community events to make an additional financial donation to the Red Cross in support of the Fort McMurray community as they face the tragic wildfire.