OES students help build school in Uganda

By on December 11, 2013
Children at Osoyoos Elementary School enthusiastically checked out items at a toy sale held Friday. The sale is one of a number of projects the school is undertaking to raise funds to help build a school at Kyampisi Village in Uganda. (Richard McGuire photo)

Children at Osoyoos Elementary School enthusiastically checked out items at a toy sale held Friday. The sale is one of a number of projects the school is undertaking to raise funds to help build a school at Kyampisi Village in Uganda. (Richard McGuire photo)

Students at Osoyoos Elementary School (OES) are trying to help children in a Ugandan village get an education. And as they do this, they are trying to bring positive change to the world.

On Friday, students held a toy sale in the library and a bake sale in a nearby classroom and on Saturday and Sunday other students held a bottle drive – all to raise funds for the Uganda project.

Since the beginning of the school year, different classes have been organizing fundraising efforts to help build a school in Kyampisi Village, said Grade 1 teacher Margi Chantler, who is co-ordinating the project at OES.

Other fundraisers have included such things as a Halloween haunted house, Chantler said.

A trip last year to a We Day event at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver led by two teachers and involving a group of students planted the initial seed, said Chantler.

More students made the trip for We Day this year, she added, noting its inspirational message.

“It’s to make the children aware that we can make changes in the world by doing things in our community,” she said.

We Day aims to empower a generation of young global citizens and is run by the charity Free the Children, founded by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger. The Kielburgers came to public attention when as children themselves they campaigned against international child labour.

Teacher Ryan Miller, who was involved with the We Day trip, noted that event’s focus this year was“education for all,” so the Ugandan school project is a good fit.

Teachers brainstormed ideas at the start of the year and they liked Chantler’s suggestion for the Uganda school project, he said.

“At the beginning of the term we talked about it and discussed what we would like to do,” Chantler said. “We decided that one of our big initiatives would be to raise money for the school.”

The Uganda connection came about thanks to a student teacher named Mandy Sousa. Sousa, who was raised in Oliver, did her teaching practicum at OES, but has since travelled to Uganda to work.

“She got involved with this village,” Chantler said.

Life for children in Kyampisi, north of the Ugandan capital Kampala, is very different from Osoyoos. There, non-governmental organizations have been working to try to eliminate the witchcraft practice of sacrificing children’s organs to evil spirits. Numerous children have been murdered or mutilated there in a practice that has grown in the last decade.

Although Chantler acknowledged this tragic reality, OES has been focusing its attention on helping to build a school as something positive for the children of this rural area.

Through the personal connection with Sousa, the initiative allows students to make a connection with a real place, she said.

“Instead of when you donate to UNICEF and you don’t know where the money goes, this is an actual real place and they can see the pictures of the kids and things like that,” Chantler said.

Miller said the bottle drive, spearheaded by three students in the Grade 6/7 class, was a big success.

“They were very excited,” he said, explaining that the students circulated notices and then went around collecting bottles. “They said they had three or four truck loads of bottles. Now they have the daunting job of sorting and organizing. We’re thinking of maybe having a sorting party.”

Despite the hard work of the bottle drive, Miller sees the project as a way to help students learn to value education as a force for making positive change in the world.

The death last week of former South African leader Nelson Mandela provided an opportunity to discuss this idea with students, he said.

After all, it was Mandela who once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

As OES students work to raise money to build a distant school in Uganda, they are taking this lesson to heart.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

 

 

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