Students support Toonies for Turtles
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.
Students at Ecole Francophone in Airdrie perform with Trickster Theatre, an event to raise awareness about Hawaii’s green sea turtles.
Pat Dennill and Renae Friestad during Toonies for Turtles, Eugene Coste Elementary School.
A Hawaiian green sea turtle comes ashore to rest in the sun.