Local students get motivated to support Kenyan village

In an attempt to get her students excited about fundraising, principal Paula Chambers of St Thomas More elementary is naming a cow after herself.

It’s part of an ongoing fundraising initiative to provide a school and livestock for a village in Kenya that is sponsored through the organization Free The Children.

"Social justice club students from St. Thomas More gather around their fundraising initiative for their village in Kenya.
"Social justice club students from St. Thomas More gather around their fundraising initiative for their village in Kenya.

“To get them started I said I was going to provide the first $200 for a cow named Miss Polly,” Chambers says.

“The little kids thought that was so funny, they’re all enthused and they all want to raise money in their classrooms so they can name an animal after their teacher.”

The Moore students are in their second year of fundraising for the village, an effort that has included organizing a social justice club of 13 students from grades seven and eight to facilitate projects and get the rest of the school involved.

“The social justice club came about in response to how to help under privileged children in other parts of the world,” says Eva Henn, one of the teachers involved in running the club.

Last year they raised $4,000 that went towards building a school in the village.

Numerous high school students from the Catholic and public school boards around Ontario went to Kenya this past summer to build the school.

“The high school students came back from Kenya and two of them presented to our students [explaining] where the money went,” Henn says.

The school decided the next step would be adopting the village as their own.

“So we’ve been told that cows and goats are the livestock we will be raising money for to sustain the village,” Henn says.

The school currently has a large chart of the village that will be hung in the school, and every time funds are raised for new livestock, stickers will be added so the children can see the growth of the village.

“The third phase of this initiative will be raising money next year to go towards a well system for clean water in the village,” Henn says.

To help the children stay motivated in their journey to donate, Free the Children hosts a gigantic rally event called National Me to We Day.

This year the 13 social justice club members travelled to Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum on Oct. 17 to witness motivational speakers such as Ben Mulroney, Justin Trudeau, and Mia Farrow. Singer Sarah McLachlan also performed.

“Last year they had a wonderful time and just felt so enthusiastic,” Chambers says. “I went with them, and on the way back to the school they were already thinking of ideas they could use for fundraising to support their project.”

This year the social justice club hopes to raise $5,000 for their Kenyan village. They already have planned to run two movie afternoons, a Valentines Day pencil gram, a spring car wash, a soup kitchen for the teachers, and to sell water bottles in the summer.

“These kids are really good because they talk about what will and won’t work,” Henn says. “They are showing really good leadership qualities.”

Chambers says that it is part of the Catholic school board’s philosophy to put emphasis on social justice issues, and hopes the students will take what they’ve learned and be community conscious when they finish school.

“I want them to take away the power to know that even though they are children they can still make a difference in the world for other children,” Chambers says.