Maillard middle school students applauded and cheered during a flag ceremony last week as they heard how their fundraising efforts have improved the lives of children in rural Kenya.
The assembly, held to recognize the school's connections with Shikokho primary school, featured videos, testimony from teachers who visited the area during spring break and a personal thank you from Kenya's honorary consul, who said the school's development efforts have transformed the lives of families living in the area.
"While we understand it is impossible to totally eliminate the world's human problems, today we are inspired by your courage and determination in giving hope to some very poor families who live on less than U.S. $2 a day," Imbenzi Geroge told the students.
Over the past two years, the school has raised more than $4,000 in sport-a-thons and other fundraising events, and connected with the school through letters and donations of school supplies and sports equipment. The project has now grown to include major building repairs and provision of books and school supplies, and an exchange of teaching resources after a group of Maillard teachers saw first-hand the conditions of the Shikokho school.
During spring break, the teachers helped grade a soccer field and install a net, and began replacing 33 wooden shutters with glass windows. Maillard middle now plans to build a library and expand Shikokho school's book collection. Through KidSport, Shikokho is also getting deliveries of used sporting equipment.
"It changed my life and changed our focus," said Christine Hilliard, who initiated the project and also visited the school with four other Maillard middle teachers, a community nurse and an aid worker.
Hilliard said Shikokho teachers face challenging conditions: classes are large - between 60 to 100 students; school books are few and tattered; and the building is bare bones -the dirt floors are home to fleas that infect the children's toes and the wooden shutters block natural light from entering the classroom.
Despite these difficult learning conditions, Hilliard said, the Shikokho children are happy and eager to learn.
During her presentation, Hilliard shared videos of the work that was done and told students anything can be achieved through goal-setting and hard work.
When the teachers passed a broken gate with a sign urging visitors to leave the place better than they found it, "We realized our task was much bigger," she said.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart was also on hand for the event and he told students helping an impoverished community in Africa was always on his to-do list.
"You students have been able to do that and I applaud that," he said.
After the flag presentation, principal Andrew Graham told students the school's identity has expanded from a local school to a global player and said students are "global citizens."
The school's Me to We club is now planning several fundraising events to raise money to improve learning conditions at the school. For more information, visit www.sd43.bc.ca and go to the Maillard middle school page.