Our vision for Canada is… strong, autonomous and resilient people, of all ages, working together to strengthen community bonds.
Our aim is simple — empowering ourselves to help and empower others. Our school is in an economically challenged community, where there are food deserts. We have the drive and the desire to be agents of change among our peers and community members. Our vision is to incorporate Stewardship work into regular teaching programs, so that kids are given a chance to show how much they can contribute to positive social change.
This year, our class’ mission was to demonstrate Stewardship in our community as part of our learning program. We formed/continued partnerships with 4 organisations in particular within our community: Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter, Rexdale Alliance Church, Thistletown Collegiate Institute and Thistletown Fresh Food Market.
At school, we have a kid-run company called the Kids’ Creative Co-op (KCC), which is in charge of various fund-raising and charitable initiatives. Our major fundraising efforts come from our weekly in-school boutique, where we sell quality items. Nothing in our boutique is over $5, because we feel that everyone deserves to have nice things at affordable prices. Our inventory comes from donations, kid-made crafts and carefully sourced items. When making crafts, we often recycle and reuse items destined for landfills and turn them into beautiful, practical items. All of the kids at our school have affordable access to quality items, and they can buy nice gifts for their families.
The money we raise goes back to our community. We created a community garden and outdoor learning space at our school, which is entirely funded and maintained through KCC efforts, and which benefits the entire school. We grow vegetables, flowers and lavender. We donate all of our vegetable harvests to the in-house foodbank at Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter.
We are also funding a fresh food market at our school to raise awareness about food insecurity in our community, along with food inequity in general. We are doing this in partnership with Thistletown Fresh Food Market, for whom the Grade 3 kids volunteered and set up a fresh food market in one of the community neighbourhoods.
Every December, we prepare Christmas gift bags for the families living at Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter. We will visit the shelter at the end of the year, to help sort items in their food-bank.
This year the Grade 3 students also volunteered at the local foodbank at Rexdale Alliance Church; we helped sort and bag items, and create toiletries packages. We formed a partnership with the Church that will see us returning regularly to volunteer at the foodbank, which also serves as a great(and free) field trip.
Another fun, cost-free field trip for us is visiting the PACT Community Garden at Thistletown Collegiate Institute (TCI), where we help clean and prepare the garden beds for winter (and later summer), and plant garlic. We visit TCI 2-3 times per year, as part of our Stewardship program.
We spent time at Zawadi Farms (another cost-free field trip), the last local farm here in Etobicoke, where we learned about the importance of eating local products and helped harvest crops.
What we have demonstrated through our Stewardship is that kids are valuable agents of change. We feel that our efforts to reach out to others in need, lets them know that they are valued and cared for.
Why do we do this?… In all honesty, because we can; and because someone’s got to do it. We truly get a lot of joy from our work, and it gives us a strong sense of purpose and of self.
Our hope is to help encourage the autonomy and strength in those facing their hardships.
Reflection & Celebration
It started with trying to find places where we could go on field trips using public transportation, so there would be little to no cost to the students and families. Our theme of Stewardship led us to make contact with local community organisations such as one of our local churches and a local high school. We learned about how closely connected the organisations themselves are, and how a connection can grow into strong community bonds.
One of the biggest challenge was organising trip dates and regular communication to confirm dates. There needs to be a lot of flexibility when arranging trips because so many different things are going on both at school and at our partner community organisations.
This entire year has been a success, and the kids have developed a social awareness that is really quite admirable. We are planning dates for the future with our partners so that our partnership is ongoing. In fact, our partnerships with Thistletown Collegiate Institute and with Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter started about 3 years ago and are still going strong.
We were recently featured on CTV. Check out the segment here!