Every year for the last five years, the NorKam Secondary School’s Saints Club in Kamloops, BC, has worked to make a difference in the world.
By Chinelo Onwualu
On a cool afternoon in November, 12 of the 22 student members of NorKam Secondary School’s Saints Club in Kamloops, BC, dressed up as living dioramas representing WE Charity’s Water and Health Pillars of Impact and joined their float in the town’s annual Santa Claus Parade.
It was the Saints’ third year entering the event that has become an annual way to connect the school with the larger community. Many of the group’s other initiatives have had similar results—starting as small campaigns and growing to encompass the whole community.
The club began in 2013 as a student-led initiative, but the group was so successful that they brought in teacher Susan Kabotoff to help facilitate their meetings and began using WE Schools resources to help them spread their reach.
Each year, the group picks one cause and then holds fundraisers and events to raise awareness for it. In 2015, they worked to bring awareness to refugee issues, raising money to sponsor a Syrian family’s relocation into their community. In 2016, it was girls’ education, and in 2017 it was access to clean water.
“We’re kind of a multi-cause group and we do a lot volunteering in the community,” explains Susan.
This past spring, 500 students joined the members of the club for their Water Walk to raise awareness about the lack of access to clean water in many parts of the world. In the fall, the group organized a coin drive and bake sale to raise money for clean water in Haiti. So, at the end of the year, their float continued these themes.
“We thought that it would be really good to branch out to the community and have people become aware of what was happening in other places in the world,” said club president, Kara Branchflower.
But it was Susan’s visit to Ecuador, as part of WE’s professional learning trip for educators this past summer, that really showed her the group’s impact.
For the last year and a half, the Saints Club has raised money for education in WE Villages communities around the world. In the town of Bellavista, along the Napo River in the Amazon, Susan saw firsthand the difference their donations were making when she visited the school there.
“Being on the ground, on the site, was super powerful,” recalls Susan. “Meeting some of the families whose children attend that school—and some of the kids themselves—I think I probably cried twice a day.”
It was Susan’s visit that inspired the group to step up their efforts for this year’s parade. To illustrate the water pillar, pairs of students walked alongside the float with buckets of water hanging from poles between them while others donned while lab coats and stethoscopes to represent the health pillar.
“We truly understand how WE Villages prioritizes sustainability and that has been very eye-opening,” says Susan.