Elementary and high school leadership students learned more about child poverty and what they could do to help at a conference at Trinity United Church.
Students from Beairsto, Harwood, Alexis Park and Seaton worked with Nancy Ingersoll and Moira Manthorne, social justice representatives for the Vernon Teachers Association.
Greg Ellis, lead teacher, Aboriginal Elementary Education, spoke about poverty and how basic expenses can leave very little for other things.
“Poverty means different things to different people, depending on their income and their needs. People can not have very much money but they might have lives rich in friendship, music and storytelling. People like to have new things but having newer things doesn’t make your life better,” he said.
Ingersoll said that B.C. has had the highest child poverty rate of all the provinces of Canada with more than one child in five living in poverty. She asked the students how they could see poverty in their schools.
A student replied, “People who are poor won’t feel like they belong because they don’t have the right clothes or people won’t want to hang out with them and they won’t feel good about themselves.”
Seaton leadership students planned group activities for the elementary school students to help them understand the concepts of generosity, mastery, independence and belonging as part of being responsible and contributing citizens.
“In one of the activities, all the kids held a rope and one walked on it to represent the support that a group can give an individual,” said Tabitha Smith, a Grade 10 leadership student.
Brooke Ritchey, also Grade 10 leadership, said, “When we think of poverty, we each think of something different because our experiences are different. In the mastery group, we did an exercise on being capable and confident to take on a project. I hope what we did makes it easier for students to feel that they can make changes and have an impact.”
Smith added, “We all learned from each other and it’s been very inspiring to see these kids care and that they want to make a difference.”
Kristen Morgan, a Grade 6 leadership student at Beairsto School said, “I really enjoyed it, we learned a lot about poverty and the idea of generosity. It was good to meet students from other schools.”
The student groups came up with ideas of things they could do, including, writing letters to government leaders, making a video, having a breakfast program and doing a toy drive and other projects.
Beairsto Grade 7 students Adam Romer and Ethan Swift couldn’t wait to get started.
“We want the government to pay attention to what is going on with poverty but we’re not the ones who control things. We have the minds and the ideas but we can’t lead anything ourselves because we are too young,” said Swift.
Romer knows how he feels. “Even though we have the ideas, we don’t have the money. We should be doing something about poverty now before it gets worse.”
Swift has been thinking, “The world could be come like Haiti where everything is gone and there is no one left to help. People think that they need to do everything by themselves, everyone needs help. I wish people would help,” he said.
Each school came up with a cheer or a rap to finish the conference on an enthusiastic note.