MCC Photo/Ken Ogasawara

(Core team of Peacemakers, left to right) Jenica Davis, Hannah MacGillivary, Sierra McCallum, Taha Hussain, Chaitanya Nasayar and Raaed Syed with their teachers Shelley Copland and Jason Flis

A year ago, Shelley Copland, a teacher at Parkway Public School in Cambridge, planted a seed that would flourish into an inspiring show of generosity from her students, school, and community. Copland and fellow teacher Jason Flis came across the Peacemakers curriculum developed by Peaceworks, a partner organization of MCC Ontario, that seeks to empower student peacemakers through personal, local and global peace programs. One of the activities in the curriculum was to collect materials and donations for hygiene and relief kits for MCC Ontario.

They brought the idea to their Grade 6 students. “I just thought it would be a fun project to do; to keep them caring all year long for somebody else,” recalled Copland. The students gave an enthusiastic “YES” – along with a whopping target of 500 hygiene kits by the end of the school year. “Knowing that it would be a year-long project, they picked a big number to hit,” said Flis.

They adopted a strategic approach by breaking down the hygiene kits into their component parts: tooth brushes, nail clippers, soap, hand towels, and combs.

Students, teachers, and their neighbouring community rallied to the cause. “I don’t think anybody actually said ‘no,’ everybody tried to pitch in,” said Taha Hussain, 12. “We used twitter, we made posters across the school, and we basically spread the word.”

Jenica Davis, 12, enjoyed the work of collecting items. “We got to see how much the people in the school cared and I honestly never thought that that many people would donate.”

One by one they checked each item off the list, collecting 500 of each either through direct donations or bought with donated cash. “The towels were expensive, so we did ‘Hats for Hygiene’ - if you brought in a dollar you could wear your hat all day [in school],” explained Sierra McCallum, 12. “And then with that money, a local store gave us a discount and we were able to buy all the towels.”

The ambitious goal of 500 kits was even more impressive given that Parkway is a relatively small school – fewer than 250 students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6. But getting excited about helping those in need was an impactful way of exercising compassion and generosity. “I think it’s important for people in general to know the joy of giving, without necessarily receiving,” mused Copland.

For Chaitanya Nasayar, the idea that they were doing so much for people they did not know or likely would never meet was beside the point: “It doesn’t really matter if you’re giving to a stranger. If you give blood to a blood bank, it goes to a stranger. If you give food to a food bank, it’s going to a stranger. I don’t really see a difference if you’re raising money or donations for a stranger.”

Classmate Raaed Syed agreed: “For me, there are a lot of people in this world – you cannot know all of them. Sometimes it’s just nice to know you donated to somebody in need; you cannot know their names or become friends with them but you can [still] donate and help people.”

This year, thanks to big donations like this one from Parkway, MCC Ontario has reached its target of hygiene kits, but are still in urgent need of over 2,000 relief kits and 1,000 light comforters, in addition to hundreds more of sewing and infant care kits. These items will be shipped to people in urgent need around the world.

Visit mcco.ca/kits to learn how you can help MCC meet the urgent need for relief kits, comforters, sewing and infant care kits.