Last August while their peers were lounging by the pool or busy working at their summer jobs, three students from Riverdale Collegiate travelled to South America to help give Ecuadorian children a place to learn.
Grade 12 students Kenzie Macdonald, Leah McMillan and K.D. O’hara travelled to Ecuador last summer with the charity Me to We, a partner of Free the Children foundation, to help build a school.
For 18 days they tiled, sanded and built walls for the school. One day they were given 30 cents to feed nine people, a day-to-day reality for villagers in Ecuador, said Macdonald.
“It changes your perspective,” said O’hara. “It takes you out of what you’re comfortable in, which is really important.”
Shortly after their return, O’hara says they re-established the school’s Free the Children club.
“Last year they didn’t do as much as they probably could have,” she said.
“Going to Ecuador made us really want to be involved,” McMillan added.
After they gave a presentation about Ecuador the number of students at meetings began to rise, said Macdonald.
“This was the first year we’ve had students talk about Free the Children instead of a guest speaker,” said McMillan.
Teacher and staff advisor for the club, Cameron Kilgour, says attendance ranges from 20–40 students at meetings.
“It’s children helping children raise awareness and raise funds for those countries,” said Kilgour. “It’s empowering them to be advocates for themselves.”
Looking to continue its good work, the club has hosted fundraisers at the school with the goal of raising $2,000 to assist with clean drinking water in a village in India.
“We saw the poverty in Ecuador and we know that it’s even greater in India,” said McMillan.
In November the club raised $350 through Vow of Silence, a fundraiser where students were asked to donate $2 and not speak for four hours.
“To be silent is to represent kids around the world who don’t have a voice, to see how they would feel,” said Macdonald.
“It’s hard for us to be silent for four hours but other children are silent their whole lives,” McMillan added.
Later in the year, the club raised $197 by selling cake-pop-o-grams. Macdonald said students wrote a personalized note to be attached and delivered to classrooms with the treats.
She also said they spent two days baking and dipping lollipop-shaped cake in icing and then putting it on sticks. Surprisingly, O’hara says the principal had a cake-pop maker.
The group’s next fundraiser will be India Day where they plan to sell samosas, offer henna tattoos, and encourage students to dress in the colours of India.
Looking forward to next year Macdonald, McMillan and O’hara all hope to attend Dalhousie University, as well as continue fundraising.
“At most universities you can start your own club,” said Macdonald. “If they didn’t have it, we’d just start one.”
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