Stu­dents sup­port Toonies for Tur­tles

Calgary Herald - - NEIGHBOURS - AN­GELA BLENKHORNE

This past win­ter, I vis­ited the fa­mous North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, and all I got was a T-shirt.

Dur­ing these trav­els, I vol­un­teered with Malama na Honu (MNH) — na­tive Hawai­ian for “pro­tect the tur­tles,” a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­tects Hawai­ian green sea tur­tles.

MNH’s ded­i­cated barefoot vol­un­teers are iden­ti­fied by lo­goed T-shirts and are on the beach 365 days a year an­swer­ing cam­er­a­tot­ing vis­i­tors’ ques­tions, main­tain­ing a safe dis­tance to view the sun­bathing tur­tles, and col­lect­ing re­search through daily ob­ser­va­tions.

Upon learn­ing I’m from Cal­gary, Joanne Pet­ti­grew, MNH’s ed­u­ca­tional vol­un­teer co-or­di­na­tor, ran across the beach to the sup­ply foot­locker and pulled out a scrap­book doc­u­ment­ing a fundraiser called Toonies for Tur­tles, re­ceived from Cal­gary teacher Pat Dennill.

Pet­ti­grew re­calls her first thought: “What the heck is a toonie?”

Pat Dennill was va­ca­tion­ing with her fam­ily in Waikiki, Hawaii, in 2008 when she read an ar­ti­cle in a lo­cal news­pa­per about the sense­less slay­ing that oc­curred only the day be­fore of Honey Girl, one of MNH’s most iconic tur­tles.

Dennill in­sisted her fam­ily travel to the is­land’s North Shore to see where this took place.

MNH’s vol­un­teers showed the Den­nills the me­mo­rial that vol­un­teers and griev­ing res­i­dents es­tab­lished where Honey Girl’s mu­ti­lated body and shell were dis­cov­ered.

Even more touch­ing was news that all the tur­tles that clam­bered on­shore that fate­ful day, with­out hes­i­ta­tion, went to the me­mo­rial site as if in tribute to their fallen sis­ter, then re­treated to the ocean.

Pat re­turned to Cal­gary de­ter­mined to help MNH by en­gag­ing her stu­dents’ imag­i­na­tions. To­gether they de­vel­oped Toonies for Tur­tles, a fundraiser timed to co­in­cide with Valen­tine’s Day.

Pat has long be­lieved that if we fos­ter com­pas­sion for oth­ers when stu­dents are young, they will pay it for­ward through­out their lo­cal and global com­mu­ni­ties.

At both Eu­gene Coste and Prince of Wales El­e­men­tary schools, Pat’s classes have stuffed, sold and de­liv­ered enough can­dy­filled bags over the past three years to raise $2,600.

Ev­ery toonie goes di­rectly to help MNH con­tinue pro­tect­ing the tur­tles.

In ap­pre­ci­a­tion, MNH has sent lug­gage tags, pen­cils and turtle pic­tures to the stu­dents, along with a letter that out­lines how their do­na­tions were spent.

Pat notes this feed­back re­in­forces the im­por­tance of ac­com­plish­ment through team­work and “helps stu­dents learn the value of ac­tively sup­port­ing a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion even if we live half­way around the globe.”

Bol­ster­ing this mo­men­tum to be con­nected to global ini­tia­tives, Prince of Wales El­e­men­tary re­cently col­lab­o­rated with Trick­ster Theatre, a Cal­gary-based non­profit chil­dren’s theatre group that cre­ates par­tic­i­pa­tory per­for­mance ex­pe­ri­ences with school kids.

Dur­ing this year’s theme of Kids Go Global, a poignant Toonies for Tur­tles piece re-en­acted the death and sub­se­quent me­mo­rial of Honey Girl.

Sev­eral of the stu­dents acted as be­reaved tur­tles, scoot­ing into the scene rid­ing me­chanic’s dol­lies on their bel­lies, wear­ing green T-shirts stuffed with pil­lows to sym­bol­ize turtle shells.

Trick­ster Theatre is cur­rently de­vel­op­ing a web­site to help con­nect lo­cal schools and the global non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs) for which they raise funds.

David Chantler, pro­duc­ing di­rec­tor, ex­plains that the goal is to give stu­dents “di­rect, tan­gi­ble ac­cess to the im­pact their ef­forts are mak­ing.”

The idea grew from David’s ex­pe­ri­ences of us­ing theatre to cre­ate a show, while vis­it­ing with or­phans in Uganda and a meet­ing with for­mer Cana­dian Gov­er­nor Gen­eral Michaelle Jean to dis­cuss “what it would mean if schools and NGOs had a mech­a­nism to track where and how funds raised di­rectly im­pact the com­mu­ni­ties in need.”

De­ter­mined to fill this in­for­ma­tion gap, David and Trick­ster Theatre de­vel­oped the Kids As Global Cit­i­zens web­site. NGOS will com­mu­ni­cate with schools through the site and of­fer in­ter­ac­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties with com­mu­ni­ties ben­e­fit­ing from the funds raised by stu­dents.

In ad­di­tion, par­tic­i­pat­ing schools will re­ceive their own web­site with the abil­ity to post pic­tures and blogs to cre­ate a long-term doc­u­ment that tracks their ac­tiv­i­ties.

The site will launch in time for the com­ing school year.

These in­no­va­tive ed­u­ca­tional re­sources are proof that Cal­gary’s stu­dents are in­deed global cit­i­zens cul­ti­vat­ing a world­wide com­mu­nity spirit that truly be­comes a lo­cal way of life.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit the web­sites at www.mala­mana­honu.org and www.trick­sterthe­atre.com.

Cour­tesy, Subra-bieusses

Stu­dents at Ecole Fran­co­phone in Air­drie per­form with Trick­ster Theatre, an event to raise aware­ness about Hawaii’s green sea tur­tles.

Cour­tesy, Pat Dennill

Pat Dennill and Re­nae Fri­es­tad dur­ing Toonies for Tur­tles, Eu­gene Coste El­e­men­tary School.

Cal­gary Her­ald Archive

A Hawai­ian green sea turtle comes ashore to rest in the sun.

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