Hats raise aware­ness in North Hat­ley school

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, North Hat­ley

Since the Syr­ian civil war be­gan five years ago, ac­cord­ing to the Syr­ian Cen­ter for Pol­icy Re­search, 470,000 Syr­i­ans have been killed, the num­ber of wounded is at 1.9 mil­lion, and life ex­pectancy in Syria has dropped from seventy years, in 2010, to 55.4

years. Al­most half of Syria’s pop­u­la­tion has been dis­placed by the war, about six mil­lion leav­ing their homes but re­main­ing in their coun­try while roughly four mil­lion peo­ple have left Syria all to­gether.

Many Cana­dian in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions have been mo­ti­vated by this hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis to get in­volved in Canada’s ef­fort to bring thou­sands of Syr­ian refugees to Canada and help them get set­tled, in­clud­ing quite a few in the East­ern Town­ships.

One ‘im­pres­sive in its sim­plic­ity’ ini­tia­tive to raise money for a Syr­ian refugee fam­ily has been go­ing on at North Hat­ley El­e­men­tary School since last De­cem­ber and has the whole school in­volved. “We are a school of only sixty-eight stu­dents so on one Fri­day per month all of the stu­dents are al­lowed to wear hats all day if they do­nate $2 to­wards our refugee fund. We started in De­cem­ber and have been rais­ing about $100 each month,” ex­plained Rachel Hostetler who teaches Ethics and Religious Cul­ture, Phys­i­cal Education and French at the North Hat­ley school.

Ms. Hostetler, who started this monthly fundraiser, con­tin­ued: “It’s a quick and easy fundraiser that doesn’t cost much. We’ve done it in the past and it’s al­ways pop­u­lar be­cause the kids love it. They can wear any kind of hat that they want, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of their learn­ing. We also ask the older kids to use their own money for the fundraiser; it’s only true giv­ing when it hurts!”

Ms. Hostetler has been teach­ing her grade 5/6 Ethics and Religious Cul­ture stu­dents about the refugee cri­sis. “We spent a whole unit on refugees, specif­i­cally Syr­ian refugees and what they are go­ing through, the im­pacts on the chil­dren. We have also talked about what the govern­ment of Canada is do­ing to help Syr­ian refugees,” she said. The stu­dents learnt the story of the Syr­ian refugees ‘pro­gres­sively’, first find­ing out what a refugee was, then watch­ing sev­eral videos on Youtube about refugees. “You can only go so far,” added the teacher.

Asked how the stu­dents re­acted to the in­for­ma­tion about the refugee cri­sis, Ms. Hostetler replied: “I show pic­tures of chil­dren in refugee camps and we com­pare our liv­ing to their liv­ing. We can go home and get food from the fridge, maybe play video games. We can go to the mall and buy what we want. They were sur­prised to learn that the Syr­i­ans used to be like us, liv­ing in nice houses and do­ing all those things. It re­ally opened their eyes.”

“We also spoke a lot about whether it was bet­ter to ac­cept them as Cana­di­ans here or to help them in their own coun­try. Most of the stu­dents said they want to help be­cause, if it was hap­pen­ing to them, they would want some­one to help them. They could also see that just ac­cept­ing refugees here in Canada was not solv­ing the prob­lem. Some stu­dents said that we should go there and help them re­build their coun­try.” As any­one who has raised chil­dren knows, eleven and twelve year-olds can be quite in­tu­itive.

The rest of the stu­dents at the school have also been learn­ing about the Syr­ian refugee cri­sis with the fundraiser. “Ev­ery time we have a hat day some of the stu­dents will ask about the refugees. We’ve also had short as­sem­blies with all of the stu­dents about the hat fundraiser and what we are rais­ing the money for. The stu­dents are now all very aware of what they are do­ing, start­ing with the kinder­garten.”

“We had hoped to raise the money for a Syr­ian fam­ily that might move to the North Hat­ley area, but not many Syr­i­ans have ar­rived to Que­bec yet so that is a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing. When we fi­nally re­ceive a fam­ily here in North Hat­ley, maybe we’ll take the fundrais­ing up a notch,” con­cluded Ms. Hostetler.

Pho­tos cour­tesy

Th­ese big smiles put the ‘fun’ in fundrais­ing.

Who wouldn’t pay $2 to wear a Vik­ing hel­met or a crown of roses all day long in school?

Stu­dents of all ages are tak­ing part in the hat-wear­ing fundraiser at North

Hat­ley El­e­men­tary School.

A North Hat­ley stu­dent gets to wear her coun­try fair hat to school to help raise money for a Syr­ian refugee fam­ily.

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