Cowden: Awareness inspires change

Joan Cowden School board trustee / Kamloops Daily News
November 26, 2012 01:00 AM

A significant social change has been felt in School District 73 through acts of kindness and volunteerism by hundreds of elementary and secondary students, teachers, administrators and parent volunteers.

The cause has been spurred by the youth-motivated We Day in Vancouver, where teenage students and staff congregated with thousands of others across B.C. for an inspirational and educational event created to help others.

We Day travels through major urban centres hosting speakers and entertainers who focus on motivating kids to "do good." The initiative was founded in 2007 by Canadian brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger who advocate for the rights of children through their Me to We and Free the Children humanitarian campaigns.
This year, more than 700 students and staff from 22 schools in district 73 participated in the
Vancouver We Day, Oct. 18.

They were among 20,000 teens who packed Rogers Arena to listen to such passionate speakers as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Demi Lovato, Magic Johnson, Molly Burke (a visually impaired student) and Spencer West, who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro using only his hands because his legs had been amputated. Students left with the knowledge that they have the power to inspire change in their schools, their communities and around the world.

Each school that attends We Day must also make a commitment to support at least one local project and one global campaign during the year. The result since 2009, when Kamloops schools began participating, has been more than $100,000 raised and more than 35,000 volunteer hours spent working on projects. What an enormous accomplishment!

Even better, these initiatives are truly community inspired. Some of the organizations that have benefitted include the Kamloops Food Bank, United Way, Salvation Army, Basics for Babies, Terry Fox Foundation, Kamloops Y Women's Shelter, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Kamloops Hospice. Some of the global initiatives taken on by our district schools include benefits to the Red Cross, the Haiti Relief Fund, Developing World Connections and Free the Childrens' Adopt a Village program, which exists in eight countries overseas.

This fall, schools have already undertaken projects, such as the We Scare Hunger initiative when students trick-or-treated for food items and collected thousands of kilograms of non-perishables for the Kamloops Food Bank. This month, efforts are focused on the We Create Change, Canada's largest penny drive, which will support Free The Children in providing 100,000 people with permanent access to water.

We invite all Kamloops residents to join us in this campaign by dropping off pennies at any school.
Students will also be involved in We Stand Together and We Are Silent. The first brings young people together to raise awareness of successes and challenges amongst aboriginal Canadians; the second is a 24-hour vow of silence recognizing children's rights.

School initiatives to support others in the community have always been evident in this district. But with We Day, students have become so much more inspired with the wonderful stories of hope and what others have initiated through social change movements. They have been supported along the way through hard work and dedication by teachers and administrators who believe in the We Day movement. This humanitarian awareness has enabled our students to believe and realize they, too, can inspire change through actions.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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