WCR | PHOTO SUPPLIED
St. Patrick's Community School students in Red Deer happily paid $1 to wing cream pies at their brave teachers to raise funds for Philippine relief.
Students from Catholic schools throughout the Edmonton Archdiocese have selflessly raised tens of thousands of dollars for relief efforts in the Philippines.
Many students in Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools have a direct connection with Typhoon Haiyan because of the high Filipino population in its schools. The day after the storm hit, students started devising fundraising ideas.
"Some of our schools probably felt it a little closer because of the fact that they have family and friends who were impacted," said Ryan Ledene, the district's associate superintendent for faith development.
Following the devastation, the schools collectively raised $36,446 for relief efforts, which was forwarded to Development and Peace. When the Canadian government matches this amount, it will total over $70,000.
"It was all directed by the individual schools, and done in small pockets, rather than a big division initiative. It's a visceral response from the students, and very much of their own devices. Many of the projects were grassroots, small-scale types of things," said Ledene.
Students chose such activities as popcorn sales and dress-down days. St. Patrick's Community School hosted a penny carnival and St. Martin de Porres School had a pyjama day and dance party. The school division gave no specific direction on fundraising activities, and most were low-key and student-generated.
"What pleases me is that we do a division-wide project to help students understand Catholic social teachings," said Ledene. "I hope some of that is connected, where the students see solidarity with someone halfway around the world because we are children of the same God.È
This year's faith theme is Go Make a Difference and by all accounts the students took the theme to heart.
Evergreen Catholic was also active with fundraising. About $1,400 was raised in a silver collection at St. Joseph School in Spruce Grove.
St. Peter the Apostle School in Spruce Grove held a pizza lunch that garnered over $300. A jersey day at St. Marguerite School in Spruce Grove brought in more than $600. Donations during an Advent Mass at Holy Spirit School in Devon totaled over $150.
In Edmonton, St. Joseph High School held Cultural Days as a special fundraiser. Mother Margaret Mary High School, in collaboration with staff and students from St. Nicholas School, hosted an exercise evening. Other schools also hosting fundraising activities included Holy Family, St. Rose and Archbishop Oscar Romero.
At Father Michael Troy School, Principal Dave Bouma said he is impressed by the awareness of his students. On their own initiative, two students did some baking for a bake sale fundraiser.
"We were encouraging kids to be empowered and look globally, rather than just in their own community. Having said that, there are needy people in our community and our students respond in kind to that as well," said Bouma.
Every year, Grade 5 students at St. Clement School prepare an exhibition that examines a world issue of their choosing. In early October, more than a month before Typhoon Haiyan struck, the students chose to focus on human survival of natural disasters as their central idea.
The students collected donations from Nov. 18 to 22 to ship to the Philippines through a community relief drive in connection with 3J Variety Store.
The Grade 5s were overwhelmed with the response of their school community who donated money, canned goods, toothbrushes, soap, clothes and various other commodities. A total of $476 went towards shipping the items to help 21 families in the Philippines.
On Nov. 22, the St. Clement feast day Mass began with the Grade 5s sharing a prayer of solidarity that they wrote in both English and Tagalog.
"After Mass ended, the students led the school in singing the Filipino national anthem. They also created a map of the Philippines to be hung in our school hallway, allowing the school community to add heart stickers to represent loved ones that were affected by the devastating super typhoon," explained Lindsey Fowler, a Grade 5 teacher at St. Clement.
As well, students were encouraged to express themselves by creating art to be displayed as an art gallery in the school hallways.
St. Hilda School in Millwoods has many Filipino students, so it also felt compelled to help out with the relief effort. "The bottom line is we had crying in the hallways and in the office. Everyone needs to cry, but basically we decided that tears are not enough. So we sat down and asked ourselves, 'What can we do about this?'" said Irene Washylk, principal at the junior high school.
As a school initiative, they started Kids in Motion, which involved various fundraising activities with the money forwarded to relief efforts in the Philippines. Every fundraiser – whether a hot chili lunch, bake sale or sports memorabilia auction – brought in at least $100, some of them considerably more.
Washylk explained that the fundraisers became more than just a social justice issue that they read about in a textbook. Kids in Motion became a personal issue, with the students helping their families and friends directly.
In response to the disaster, Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools declared Nov. 22 as a Day of Prayer for the Philippines.
Louis Kloster, religious education consultant for the district, said they recognize three ways in which they can be of support at times like this: praying for those affected, learning more about what happened and raising funds to assist with the relief efforts.
At Georges H. Primeau Middle School in Morinville, $267 was raised for Development and Peace. They did this through "charity Fridays" where students paid a dollar to wear a hat or pyjamas for the day. The school donated an additional $100 towards the cause.
Vital Grandin School in St. Albert held a bake sale and bracelet sale that raised $845. The students made the bracelets, then sold them off. Another $291 was raised by Dr. Lucio Gelmini, chair of the Edmonton Science Outreach Network, when he gave a chemistry presentation at the school.
Richard S. Fowler Catholic Junior High School raised $3,600 as part of its We Day service projects.
"The extended families and friends of many of our students have been affected by this disaster. At our last Spirit Assembly on Nov. 21 we prayed as a school for the efforts of those helping with this disaster," said Kloster.