Generosity is a subject students at Rogers elementary are passing with flying colours. A group of kindergarten students at the school showed that generosity in donating $300 towards a program that supports struggling students in the West African country of Mali, with $200 coming from one student, Olivia Wood.
“Her extraordinary act was one of complete selflessness and compassion in its purest form,” said Wood’s teacher, Charmaine Shortt. “When I asked her why she wanted to give away her money she simply said ‘I want to help others.’”
Wood’s $200 donation came from a cash gift of $250 that she had received earlier. The remainder went towards a local charity.
Shortt said Wood’s parents supported her decision. “They said, ‘We want her to understand that she may be one, small person, but she can help to make big differences in the world, even if it’s for a person she does not know.’”
Overall, Rogers students raised $1,300 towards the program. Yves Parizeau, who taught at Rogers between 1991 to 2006, and his wife and fellow retired teacher Claire Ebendinger started it in 2011 under the umbrella of Instruments For Africa, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2005 to promote programs that empower underprivileged and at-risk children in Mali through academic and cultural educational opportunities.
Parizeau and Ebendinger visit the school each year to discuss their project and conditions in Mali. “[So] the students who have progressed through Rogers have been able to see the impact their donations have made through the stories and pictures that Yves and Claire share with us each year,” said Shortt.
In 2014, donations from Canada helped to build a house for the music and tutoring programs. “Presently, our contributions will allow the program to continue by paying the salaries of the teaching staff and maintenance of the learning structure,” she said.
Rogers has always supported a global service project of some kind, said Shortt, who uses the Mail project to raise awareness about global issues.
“At the kindergarten level, this project provides my students with an opportunity to become aware of the world beyond the safe, beautiful walls of our classroom,” she said. “In helping others across the globe, we discover firsthand the importance and impact of compassion and empathy.”
To achieve that effect, Shortt said she has often guided imagery to foster mindfulness, and the donation from her class, including Olivia’s, emerged after such a though-experiment.
“One day, we role-played ‘waking up a and starting our day in Mali’, thinking through what we would have to do to prepare for school – fetching water from a well, washing in a bucket, sitting on a dirt floor in a hot, crowded room for school [and so on],” she said.
The exercise, she said, left an impression. “I think the children went home and reflected on how fortunate we are,” she said. “In the days that followed, students brought coins from their piggy banks in the hopes of making a difference for the children of Mali. One child brought in a wooden jewelry box filled with plastic pirate treasure to donate to the cause. It is certainly heartwarming to see four and five-year-olds display such thoughtfulness.”
The rest of the school mirrors this generosity, for the Mali project is not the only project which the school community supports.
“We regularly surpass our fundraising goals for each initiative,” she said.”Our parent group comes together in full force to support important causes. Their compassion and community spirit is fantastic modelling for our students.”
So is Olivia’s