Two years ago Cadboro Bay’s Evan Papps, then in Grade 6, attended the key ceremony where a family was given the keys to their new home, thanks to Habitat for Humanity.
It was a powerful moment for Evan to see the emotion in children close to his own age get their own room, and their own house, for the first time, his mom Ramona Johnston said.
Evan was there as a guest of honour as he was the runner-up in the Meaning of Home youth poetry contest that year. As runner-up, Genworth Canada donated $5,000 to Habitat for Humanity Victoria in Papps’ name.
Well, leave it to little brother to one-up his big brother as this year Nathan, 11, won the Grade 5 grand prize for the Meaning of Home for his poem Home is where the heart lives. The metaphorical poem depicts the parts of a house as the parts of a body, something he was able to do having recently experienced a reno in his family home, he said.
“Nathan wasn’t at the key ceremony with his brother but he heard all about it and it stuck,” Johnston said.
“I hadn’t done any poetry yet, so it was fun but it was a bit hard as I had to learn a lot,” said the Glenlyon Norfolk School student.
The first stanza reads:
I watch my home being built
Its frame, the skeleton
Its siding, the skin
Its electricity, the brain
Its ventilation, the lungs
Its plumbing, the blood
The poem was submitted in the fall, and this week the winners were announced. The national contest is open to students in three categories, Grades 4, 5 and 6. Grand prize winners for each grade earn $30,000 for their local Habitat for Humanity chapter. The runner-up prize has been bumped to $10,000 and Genworth also donates $10 to Habitat for every submission, which tallied 10,226, or $102,260 this year.
Habitat for Humanity users partners and fundraising to secure land and build affordable homes to sell to people who might otherwise be unable to secure the purchase of their own home. The money goes towards 11 new affordable homes for Greater Victoria families this year, 10 in North Saanich and one in Central Saanich.
As the winner, Nathan also wins himself an iPad and pizza party for his class, which would have happened during a cheque presentation ceremony. Though he’s back in class twice a week these days, there won’t be a pizza party or cheque presentation for now.
“I’m just very happy to say I’ve helped build a home for someone, happy and proud,” Nathan said. “I think what Habitat for Humanity is doing is great.”
This spring, during the COVID-19 pause, Nathan’s class spent time on a poetry unit. He created another hit poem, this one a slam poem that he performed on video and permitted his mom to share on social media.
It’s been watched by thousands, a youthful take on the good and bad of COVID-19’s impact.
“It was a mix between our experience, which had been enjoyable [being home as a family] and other families,” Nathan said. “Some people lost jobs. Some [parents] had to go to work and leave the kids at home.
“It was a special time for my family [having dad working from home] but not for everybody.”