‘WE” (previously known as Free the Children) is an international charity and educational partner, working both domestically and internationally to empower and enable youth to become agents of change. In affiliation with WE Schools, Canyon-Lister Elementary School has a group of students that belong to ‘Be the Change’. As students of our UNESCO school, this group of volunteers are committed to creating positive change on a school, community and global level. They regularly participate in projects through WE, including: We Scare Hunger, We Bake for Change, Adopt a Village, We Are Silent, We Stand Together.
These programs focus on educating our students about the challenges facing many children; poverty, hunger, clean water, environmental issues, housing, school construction in developing countries, freedom. In turn, our students then focus on becoming active and how to become a part of the solution. These are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Since 2012, our students have gathered non-perishable food items for our local food bank, gathered new children’s mittens and donated them to our local crisis shelter, raised funds to build a well in Myanmar as well as a school in India. Caring for our environment has included Duck Lake shoreline clean ups and pulling invasive weeds in our local marshlands. In 2015, our efforts focused on supporting a local family that moved here from Burma as refugees. Building relationships focused on kindness and respect is what it’s all about! In 2016, students spoke and sang about local environmental issues at a Creston town hall meeting. They were successful in having a Clean Air, Water and Soil Day established in the Creston Valley.
“We believe the Town of Creston can be brave and tell its citizens that they believe the environment is important; that we are all important. We ask the Town of Creston to declare that each person has the right to clean air, water and food. Today is the day we decide.”
In 2017 we raised $1000 to ‘purchase’ animal kits, education kits, home business, clean water ‘kits’ for a community in Tanzania. The focus was to provide the resources (books, paper, pencils, goats, chickens, clean water, etc.) to assist people in their journey to becoming self-sufficient and independent in countries that are struggling with drought, over-forestation, violence and poverty. Our most recent efforts in 2018 included fundraising $2000 to help build a school in Ethiopia. Students participated in an amazing spaghetti dinner fundraiser that fed the multitudes! A true community team effort!
Spring was a time to help our local Wildlife Center by writing letters to support efforts to keep the Discovery Education Center open. We educated the public using the singing voices of students and a slide show presentation about the impact of litter on our local environment. These efforts, accompanied by additional community support, were successful in obtaining a Columbia Basin Trust grant and the center remained open! To help further, students participated in a Duck Lake Shoreline clean up and completed a swallow bird count.
Children that understand the world is about so much more than just themselves grow into future adults that understand their actions impact the world as a whole!
We Day is a day of celebration: 10,000 youth strong! Since 2013, our students have attended four We Days in Calgary, Alberta. There they listened to the inspirational stories and music of Nikkole Heavy Shields, Martin Luther King III, Nelly Furtado, Spencer West, Margaret Trudeau, Craig Kielburger (to name a few) as well as many youth that have faced challenges and have conquered! It is a day of celebration, learning and inspiration! We look forward to many more We Day conferences in the future.
‘Be the Change’ is an integral part of Canyon-Lister Elementary School. It is part of our commitment to positive and sustainable change, and part of our responsibility as the only UNESCO member school in British Columbia. We are very grateful to staff member Laurel Ewashen for her ongoing leadership and commitment to ‘Be the Change’.