Hats raise awareness in North Hatley school
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.
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.