Canadian school campaigns lend a hand

By 
  • February 4, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - Three weeks after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, children’s rights activist Craig Kielburger says remarkable efforts are already underway towards the rebuilding of the country.

Those efforts are being bolstered by the generosity efforts of Catholic students who are raising tens of thousands of dollars in Canada,

Kielburger, a graduate of Toronto’s Mary Ward Catholic High School, recently wrapped up a week-long visit to Free the Children schools in Haiti.

Kielburger, 24, told The Catholic Register he’s seen many children, separated from their parents, trying to cope with the toll the tragedy is taking them.

“The devastation is beyond description,” he said.

But there are also signs of hope. At a Mass celebrated at a Port-au-Prince school, some children broke down in tears “in gratitude for being alive,” he said. Kielburger added that a 12-year-old girl told him although her parents are missing, she is thankful for surviving and prays every night for the orphans who don’t have anyone to care for them.

Kielburger, through Free the Children, the organization he founded at age 12 to aid children in Third World nations, is being joined by Catholic students in raising funds to rebuild schools and orphanages.

In Toronto, 13-year-old Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary School student Caroline Farrow is a member of Me to We, Free the Children’s sister organization. Farrow said students have been wearing Haiti’s national colours and donating money to help raise funds to rebuild St. Joseph’s Home for Boys, an orphanage destroyed by the earthquake. Some of the boys had visited schools in Toronto and Dufferin-Peel region as part of a dance troupe in recent months.

The York Catholic District School board raised $168,000 through board-wide fundraisers such as “Loonie-Toonie days.”

“Because we’re Catholic school communities, they know we’re often called upon to try and help those in need and they take that very seriously,” said Chris Cable, the York board’s manager of communications.

In Caledon East, Ont., Robert F. Hall Catholic High School students raised $17,000 in one day for Development and Peace during a Dress Down Day where students traded in their uniforms for casual clothes.

Meanwhile, Colleen Connor, a Grade 6 teacher at Oakville’s Mother Teresa Catholic Elementary School, said the school collected at least $2,500 for earthquake relief. And the school will continue its efforts for Haiti, she said.

Mother Teresa partnered with the NGO Solidarity-Haiti four years ago to build schools in remote and poverty stricken communities. Since 2000, several Catholic schools in Toronto, Dufferin-Peel and Calgary have partnered with the same organization to build schools in Haiti.

At Burlington’s St. Paul Catholic Elementary School, six Grade 8 boys and four teachers shaved their heads on Jan. 29 to raise more than $1,500 for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace’s Haitian relief efforts.

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