There’s nothing more inspiring than seeing children who have never swam a full lap in their life be determined to swim four just to fill their schools with textbooks.
On November 8th, our Swimathon began in a typical drizzle that would accompany any school field trip that is held outdoors. Besides the weather, the children and the volunteers as well as GVI Staff and School Teachers had high spirits for a successful day ‘swimming up Kilimanjaro.’
Students cheered on their classmates by waving pom poms made out of reused plastic Nakumatt bags and shouting encouragements to the swimmers. Our Volunteers were busy assisting the students as they swam. They worked tirelessly to keep these novice swimmers afloat and encouraged them to keep going when it seemed impossible. The amount of encouragement and support at this pool was overwhelming and with live streaming on Facebook and Twitter at my finger tips, I could feel it across the globe. Comments were coming in as well as donations and we looked on in disbelief as the numbers kept going up and up.
Earlier in the morning, my sister sent me photos of her school, Westview Elementary. This North Vancouver school created signs and asked those around them for coins to help ‘bring the change’
which I hope was a clever pun! Their signs say, “you make a change in the world,” and I hope that more kids believe that and continue to believe that in the future. So often we may feel jaded entering ‘adulthood’ and facing the cynical reality that change is hard (but not impossible!) and feel like our small acts (like sparing the cost of a tall coffee) can’t bring any change in the world. But these kids? They believed in it and they ended up raising $180. That’s when it really hit home. Kids from across the globe trying to help out ones they’ve never even met. Nothing will humble you more than that.
Later on I was emailed letters from students at my old practicum school, Heath Traditional in Delta, where some students sold bracelets while another did a Bike-a-thon on the same day. I can’t lie – in reading the letters, my eyes welled up in the most proud and grateful tears. “I hope you will learn much more now that you have more textbooks,” one student wrote. It’s beautiful how dedicated children can be to help other children around the world. This is exactly what the ‘Me to We’ campaigns are all about and I’m so happy that children are feeling empowered to make a difference for other children. Together the school pooled an incredible $471.37, the most money that school has ever raised for any single fundraising venture. They have our deepest gratitude!
The final donation page closed at the end of December. The amazing total raised was: 5370 pounds (8,592 CAD) which is far more than we had ever hoped for. At home, the use of textbooks is a luxurious controversy, but here it can mean the difference between a pass and a fail on an exam that determines too much of their future. Without textbooks that follow the correct curriculum, these two schools with ever changing teacher support and limited resources, could not provide a standard of Education to these students high enough to ensure their success in this exam and their advancement to Secondary Education. To know that these children will have the necessary means to pass their life changing exams for a long, long time is something I was proud and fortunate to be a part of.
In total, we were able to stock both schools with over 600 textbooks of all subjects – something that has never happened before in the history of these schools. Students are now able to share one textbook per two people instead of 4 and are in conditions that will last much longer than our previous set of deteriorating books.
I cannot extend a big enough thanks to those who were willing to spare their change, the students taking the time to ask, those of you who watched my video and shared it among friends, the volunteers and staff of GVI who supported the students swimming and swam themselves, the teachers and especially the students who swam four laps when they never thought they could swim one. The dedication and persistence is inspiring and I will forever remember their courage and pride in raising money for their classmates and their schools. Well done, Nyota Ing’arayo & Olives Rehabilation Centre, you deserve those books and that bright future!