Kids Making Change On Salt Spring Island
By JANINE FERNANDES-HAYDEN, MA, BSc,
with LINDA MATTESON-REYNOLDS, Reg.N., BA
Photos by LINDA MATTESON-REYNOLDS
Janine Fernandes-Hayden has been a member of the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation Board for the past five years. She holds an MA degree in Education Psychology with a focus on learning and development. She is certified as a teacher, having taught Science and French at the high school level. Janine has research experience through the University of Calgary and the University of Victoria and spent the most recent ten years of her working career with the public service in the area of education, undertaking research, policy and planning work. Janine is now engaged in a different kind of hands-on, “field” education with her three children, aged 1, 3 and 5 (with a fourth on the way!). In her spare time, she hosts a parent and kids radio show called “The Beanstalk” which can be heard on local Salt Spring Island airwaves at CFSI 107.9 FM or online at www.cfsi-fm.com
Welcome to Salt Spring Island, Canada, one of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Salt Spring Island has a population of over 10,000 residents. The Island is served by one community hospital, Lady Minto Hospital, which also provides palliative care, extended care and emergency services. Salt Spring Island falls under the jurisdiction of School District 64, which is made up of the five island communities in the Southern Gulf Islands. The Gulf Islands School District has eleven schools, seven of which are on Salt Spring Island.
Salt Spring Island is home to a large number of artists, stunning scenery and a community that holds great potential in terms of giving our children and youth the sense of belonging that Maslow emphasizes as being so important.
Upon entering Lady Minto Hospital on Salt Spring Island, visitors, patients and staff cannot help but be greeted by brightly painted wooden tulips that stand proudly in the front gardens, casting colour even on the dreariest and cloudiest of winter days. The tulips are a reminder of the little hands that make up our community and the little hearts that have the potential to give so much.
The wooden tulips, painted by our elementary students, are just one component of a bigger campaign called “Kids Making Change”. The project was a partnership between the Island’s local Hospital Foundation and the school district, proving that school-community partnerships can be successful, effective and powerful.
The idea for this one-time project emerged in many ways. In the Fall of 2008, several monetary donations by “young philanthropists” in the community prompted the need for the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation to recognize young people who were making a difference in the community and specifically, to the hospital. One youth in our community, 13 years old in age, raised $166.56 through the collection of cans and bottles. Her grandfather had passed away in the Extended Care Unit of the hospital and she wanted to do something in honour of him and in recognition of the great care that he had received. Another group of students collected $445.00 for the hospital through their spring 2008 community car wash. In comparison to the average value of donations received by the Hospital Foundation, these donations may not seem like much, but we knew that for these young people, this generosity represented so much more.
Upon further discussions about “young philanthropists”, we realized that many youth were giving to the hospital not only monetarily but also in terms of “time” and “talent”. For example, two youth, under the guidance of their father, regularly served coffee and made pancakes for the residents in the Extended Care Unit (ECU) of the hospital. Two others, along with their father, entertained residents, once a week, with an interactive crossword puzzle. Many more participated in formal programs such as Candy Stripers and Junior Volunteers. What kept these young people coming back week after week to give of their energy and attention when there were so many other demands on their time from peers and other extra-curricular activities? How could we, the Hospital Foundation, encourage other young people to do the same?
We recognized the need to celebrate, validate and encourage young people who get involved in their community and particularly with the hospital. We began to explore ways to honour youth making a difference. We started by establishing a new panel on our donor wall in recognition of “Young Philanthropists”. However, we wanted to take it one step further. As a Hospital Foundation, we felt that we were in a position to play an important role in promoting social responsibility, particularly given the nature of our small, interconnected community. Joyce Epstein in her work on school, family and community partnerships describes the concept of “school-like” communities. We as an organization could be “teachers”. Thus, the idea of a new campaign emerged, one that would allow kids to see how their “time, talents and treasures” could make a difference to their hospital and community.
The “Kids Making Change” campaign ran for the month of September. The goals of the campaign were:
- To promote the concept of “Philanthropy” and the giving of “time, talents and treasures”;
- To reinforce, recognize and validate philanthropic acts by young people;
- To support existing youth role models and fostering new ones;
- To strengthen community connections and foster partnerships;
- To inspire a sense of community excitement, support and hopefulness.
- To raise funds towards a specific item of pediatric equipment in support of children and young people within the community.
As an educator, I knew that, in developing this campaign, success was dependent on a design that would not be viewed as burdensome, or as a time-consuming add-on to the curriculum. It needed to complement the on-going work of administrators and teachers. Alignment was key.
I began by combing through the BC curriculum, the Prescribed Learning Outcomes and the Social Responsibility Performance Standards for each grade level to find the connection at the provincial level.
I knew that at the level of the school district, the work of John Abbott had been foundational in charting the district’s future directions. “Blurring the lines between school and community, recognizing that learning takes place inside and outside of the schools” had been stated as an emphasis in the School District’s Accountability Contract to the BC Ministry of Education. The “Kids Making Change” campaign presented a creative opportunity to “blur the lines” between school and community.
Finally, I researched the plans and the goals set forth by each school. I was reassured to find that social responsibility continued to be an important focus, if not as a specific improvement goal, then as a necessary underpinning in support of other goals. Thus, the concept of “philanthropy” and the giving of “time, talents and treasures”, supported individual school directions.
With ideas such as these, it is so tempting to “go big”. We resisted this urge, choosing instead to take on a manageable portion of work and do it well. We decided that “Kids Making Change” would focus on elementary students on Salt Spring Island as its primary audience – approximately 300 students in all.
There were a number of components to the campaign. The first involved an educational component - a lesson that would be given to the elementary students on philanthropy and the different ways of giving. Being all too familiar with the work of Albert Bandura and the power of role models with whom young people can relate in terms age as well as experience, I knew that this project needed to be lead by youth as opposed to a group of older Hospital Foundation Board members who had not been in a classroom for decades. I needed authentic examples of “Kids Making Change” so I recruited and trained high school students to be my facilitators. Who did I choose? It was not necessarily those students who typically stand out as the well-rounded over-achievers, although many of them did fit this description. In addition to these students, however, I tried to identify kids whom I felt needed a bit of encouragement to uncover and feel proud of the gifts that they already possessed and could contribute to others and their community. There was a bit of scaffolding required – one student was absolutely terrified of public speaking but I knew that if she could test out the waters and dip her toes in with this project, she would gain the confidence to take on more adventures such as this one. At the end of the day, it was important be able to nurture new youth leaders, as unsuspecting as they were!
In order to help students crystallize their learning from the lesson as well as fold in the “family” connection that Joyce Epstein deems as so important, each was sent home with a “goodie bag” containing the following items:
- A collection can to raise monies for a paediatric wheelchair. This symbol represented the “giving of treasures”.
- A package of mixed-flower seeds, generously donated by a local plant and garden supply store. This symbol represented the “giving of talents”, reflecting the concept of “bloom where you’re planted”.
- A get-well card creatively designed by a local middle school student. This symbol represents the “giving of time”.
In addition, students each received a copy of the children’s book “The Charity Glove” which they were encouraged to incorporate into their family reading program. The books were generously donated by author Brad Offman of MacKenzie Investments in Toronto, Ontario (half way across the country from us!) who, when he found out about our project, was so inspired, that within days, we received a shipment of 500 books at our doorstep.
The campaign and its goals were nurtured throughout the month with other activities, designed in collaboration with classroom teachers. These activities enabled students to demonstrate their understanding of the lesson, apply their learning, gave them opportunities to give of their “time, talents and treasures”.
Classes and individual students were invited to write letters to patients, draw pictures that could be displayed in the halls of the hospital as well as on the walls of patients’ rooms, and entertain residents in the Extended Care Unit with their musical talent. Additionally, thanks to the hardwork of a handful of community “bandsawers”, students participated in a school-wide project to paint 180 wooden tulips approximately 1 ½ feet in height that could be staked into the ground. These activities represented the “time” and “talent” portion of the campaign.
In terms of “treasures”, students were asked to fill the collection can that they received in their goodie bag with that loose change that seems to collect in little bowls or the bottoms of drawers or in piggy banks - theirs, their families and perhaps their families’ friends. This change would be gathered and used to purchase a much-needed paediatric wheelchair for the Hospital. It was important for us to emphasize to both parents and teachers that this was not a door-to-door campaign but more an opportunity to learn that even a little change can make a difference.
What made this campaign so amazing was the enthusiasm of our community – it was more than we could have imagined. We were overwhelmed by the amount of support that the campaign received in terms of donations of time, funds, supplies and volunteer labour.
In addition, our local newspaper, The Driftwood, jumped aboard in full force and provided us with a free 5-page “Kids Making Change” supplement which described the project as well as highlighted 10 examples of kids who had given of their time, talents and treasures to the hospital. It was a phenomenal contribution and a powerful educational tool that provided the kids of our community with examples of peers and role models that they could relate to.
In the end, the “Kids Making Change” campaign was a great successful. Almost $2000.00 was raised and students were so proud to have our local newspaper photographer take their picture next to the fluorescent green pediatric wheelchair, which their efforts had purchased. We received over 40 "Thinking of You" cards that were excitedly distributed to patients. The cards read the most simple, sincere, human and often humorous messages such as “Have a good day – I hope you like my card” and “ Stay positive and be happy – even if you don’t have long, let your last moments be happy”. The otherwise sterile and empty walls of the hospital were now adorned with bright and colourful student artwork that caused many people to stop and smile. Patients and Extended Care residents delighted in having young people share their musical talent. One student made residents cry with his soul-touching cello music while another received great applause and encores, especially when he crooned out some old-time tunes while strumming his guitar. It may not have been the initial inclination for these two specific youth to share their talent in this manner, but both returned more than once to perform and both surprising agreed that they had fun! And of course, there were the wooden tulips that stood tall at the entrance of the hospital and in the gardens behind the Extended Care Unit, that would bloom not only in the Spring but all times of the year.
The positive feedback received from members of our community speaks to the impact of the campaign. The following reflection is from a mother expressing her gratitude:
I wanted to let you know about the impact of the hospital fundraiser that you have implemented into the schools here, and specifically at Salt Spring Elementary.
My seven year-old daughter Sophia came home from school the day that the “Kids Making Change” campaign visited her grade 2/3 class at SSE. She immediately presented me with the literature that she had received, and proceeded to hit all our hot spots in the house for loose change, including her own piggy bank. When I asked her about the money, she was very clear with me that it was supposed to be monies found in your own house, and that she was not suppose to go to our neighbor’s house to collect from them. She then went to the calendar to mark the date that the can was to be returned to the school.
What I appreciated most about this was that Sophia was able to arrive home from school and undertake this project ENTIRELY on her own. It must have been clear, concise and simple enough for a seven year old – and obviously it was. Sophia had fun painting the flowers, gave the get-well card to a sick neighbor, and was proud to be helping to buy a wheelchair for the hospital.
How wonderful it would be if all awareness projects could be created and implemented so smoothly and effectively. Excellent job.
The Lady Minto Hospital Foundation is grateful for all contributions, support and enthusiasm that made this initiative possible. We are fortunate to live in a small community such as Salt Spring Island where acts of philanthropy and stewardship can be easily and effectively embraced by our young people and where adults, by their example of giving, help to nurture an environment of social responsibility. Were we successful in our goals? What we did was plant the seed, and as anyone with a green thumb knows, nothing in the garden grows overnight. Time will only tell. I am assured however of our impact by the many young people who continue to thank me for the opportunity to have been involved and by members of the community who stop me on the street hoping that we might undertake another project such as this one in the near future.
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