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Port Coquitlam student paints rocks to spread motivational message

Insiyah Dharsee is making the best of a summer without camp, hanging out with her friends or extensive travel.

Insiyah Dharsee is making the best of a summer without camp, hanging out with her friends or extensive travel.

The 13-year-old Port Coquitlam teen is painting rocks that she hopes will inspire others to seek the positive from months of anxiety and stress brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Each colourful rock features the signature saying of British Columbia’s medical officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry: Be Calm. Be Kind. Be Safe.

Dharsee said the expression has driven her effort to spread Dr. Henry’s message.

“When I give a rock to someone, it can remind them to be calm, be kind and be safe,” she said.

Dharsee started her painting project in the earliest days of the pandemic, while she was off school. The first few were rather haphazard affairs, the words lettered in nail polish with a toothpick.

Dharsee presented those to her teachers and principal at Summit middle school, even PoCo Mayor Brad West, but messages on several of the rocks quickly faded.

She said she’s since learned to prime each rock with a base layer of paint, draw the lettering with a paint marker, then seal the colours with a coat of lacquer. Allowing time for each step to fully dry on a window sill, every rock takes about three days to completion. And that’s not even accounting for the time she spends at local beaches and river banks, carrying a big red bucket in which she collects the smooth stones that provide a perfect canvas.

Still, Dharsee has managed to paint almost 100 rocks so far this summer. some of which she’s now making available by donation so her scout group can buy blankets, shawls and socks for shut-in seniors at local care homes. So far she’s amassed $180, a nice start on her goal of $1,000.

Dharsee’s mom, Rubina, said the project will be a lasting reminder of a most unusual time in history.

“Let’s make something good out of it,” she said..

That’s another message Insiyah can get behind.

“I learned I can still feel happy every day during the pandemic,” she said. “I don’t have to feel negative every day.”

• To acquire your own Dr. Bonnie Henry rock, email