Palliser students lend hand to Syrian refugees

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A sign of the times at R.I. Baker Middle School in Coaldale.

Today’s students are part of a global reality and that fact helps them to look beyond their own specific needs.

Students across Palliser Regional Schools put their efforts towards charitable acts the past month or two, with a number of those reaching out to help Syrian refugees. Among those were students at R.I. Baker Middle School in Coaldale.

The Grade 6 Social curriculum speaks to everyone’s ability to make a difference in their own community and  their own country, but also around the world. As a class, teacher Michael Willems says they brainstormed different ways they could make a real change for those in need around them.

One student suggested they help out with the Syrian refugee crisis, an event that has been a large part of their current events discussion. Willems told the students that whatever money they brought in for the cause he would personally match, and then the Canadian government would also double, effectively quadrupling their donations.

“They were really excited!” he says.

The students wanted to take it a step further than just taking in donations, however, and suggested a bake sale. Although he was hesitant to try and pull together a bake sale in a matter of days, especially during the last week before Christmas break,  the students were confident they could pull it off. Willems pointed out they had to be the ones doing the baking – and not something they could dump on their parents ­– and the students were still all eager to contribute.

Both the Grade 6As and Bs hosted a lunch-hour bake sale during and the event was so successful they extended it to a second day. In total, the bake sale raised $270. The money was then combined with other donations and contributions from teachers and the 48 Grade 6 students were able to raise a total of $1,111.

The money was donated to the Mennonite Central Committee of Alberta, a charity registered with the Canadian Syrian Refugee Fund. Consequently, the Government of Canada matched the donation, making for a grand total of $2,222.

“I am proud of these students and hope that they will always remember how much of an impact they were able to make in only a few days with a couple of small ideas,” says Willems.

Master’s Academy and College in Calgary, meanwhile, partnered with City Mosaic Church, the Christian ministry “I AM” and the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society to help meet the immediate needs of as many Syrian refugees as possible.

With a number of refugees arriving to the shock of cold winter weather in Calgary with nothing more than a small bag of personal items, students embraced the goal of helping provide winter warmth.

Donations of gently-used adult and children’s jackets, boots, hats, gloves and blankets were encouraged and the community’s generosity was evident with at least 75 bags of goods collected.

At Menno Simons Christian School the Division II students collected more than $600 for a family of refugees who arrived at the Calgary airport in mid-December, with one young student withdrawing a significant amount of money from her own bank account to donate.

Some Palliser schools were able to turn the occasion into a learning opportunity, including Calgary Christian Secondary School.

Grade 9 students at CCSS invited a Syrian refugee, Majd Alajji, into their classroom to share the story of his journey to Canada and what it is like to adjust to a new country, and a new way of living. After listening intently and asking questions the students took on an activist role to raise awareness of the situation.

They researched and then brainstormed ways the government could help Syrian refugees and began a letter writing campaign. A total of 67 business letters were personally mailed to various MLAs, MPs, and even to the office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, explaining their position on the situation and ideas on how Canadians can help.

Through this experience, the students learned how important it is to listen to each other's story and show empathy to others. ?