When the Real Acts of Caring (RAC) committee voted last fall to make mental health the theme for its dedicated week, Harriette Chang knew it was a good topic to address.
As a 28-year teacher and counsellor in School District 43 (SD43), she said she’s never seen such high levels of anxiety and depression as what students experience now.
“There’s a lot of stress,” Chang said. “We are seeing the scars of COVID. There are people struggling just to get their feet back on the ground. It’s a different world now.”
Chang is one of about two dozen committee leaders promoting RAC 2024, a week-long movement that started at Central Community Elementary in Port Coquitlam 19 years ago and encourages people to do something good for somebody without expecting anything in return.
This year’s push starts Sunday, Feb. 11, and runs until Saturday, Feb. 17.
Over the past month, Tri-City students, led by Chang and Stephen Balnave, a counsellor at Eagle Mountain Middle in Anmore, have spread the good word about RAC at city and village council meetings, a board of education gathering and with local organizations.
They also received a proclamation from B.C.’s Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and Attorney-General Niki Sharma to pronounce Feb. 11 to 17, 2024, as Real Acts of Caring Week in the province.
Last month, in Port Coquitlam, acting mayor Coun. Steve Darling praised Chang and the 20 Central students, who delivered flowers and cookies to the councillors and staff; in return, Darling offered the presenters a free pass to the recreation centre.
Coun. Paige Petriw told the students they were making a big impact, especially on the lives of people with mental health challenges.
“When I was growing up, there was no talk of mental health in school and I think a lot of people suffered because of that.”
Coun. Darrell Penner recalled when Central pitched the idea of RAC before council, under then-mayor Scott Young, in 2005.
“I remember thinking that this is a pretty cool idea,” he said, adding the RAC kindness outreach “exemplifies us as Canadians.”
Chang told the Tri-City News today, Feb. 9, that she and RAC volunteers recently travelled to the interior to promote RAC; in Penticton, which is in its fourth RAC year, they’ve made a video to share with B.C. school districts.
“They just love the idea,” she said.
As for Grade 5 students Kate Jarvic and Jackson Kurylo, both 10 and students at Porter Elementary, where Chang works, they stretch the RAC Week to the full year.
“I help my parents out,” Jarvic said. “They are proud of me and my choices.”
“It feels good to do something for someone,” Kurylo added.
“I play with someone who is lonesome or open the door for somebody behind me … It warms your heart when they smile.”
To learn more about the Real Acts of Caring Week, Feb. 11 to 17, 2024, you can visit the group's website.