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Evangeline Middle School students make positive impact on community through Tree of Hope

NEW MINAS, NS - Students at Evangeline Middle School in New Minas recognize that some members of the community are in need of help and are taking action.

EMS Grade 7 homeroom teacher Freda Larade said the Tree of Hope is a long-standing fundraiser at the school that stemmed from seeing students who needed additional support during the holidays. It was also to help students realize that poverty exists in our community and that we can all come together to make a difference.

“For me, this is the best time because you see how youth are inspired and create change and that they are the catalyst of our future and making a difference,” Larade said. “It’s not just in words, you see it in action and that’s the power of it.”

She said students are involved in the process from beginning to end. For five days leading up to Dec. 21, students sold candy canes for 25 cents each, raising $344.15. This was augmented with a $200 donation from the student council. The $544.15 was split between Chrysalis House and the Kids Action Program. Each charity also received a $50 gift card for the Superstore, donated by a parent.

From November to Dec. 20, items such as toys, cleaning supplies, toiletries and winter clothing donated by students and parents were accepted at the Tree of Hope in the school library. These donations were also split between the two charities.

Larade said a group of more than 20 EMS students attended WE Day in Halifax in November. Inspired to create positive change as a generation, these students and others will be contributing to the community through a number of initiatives, including preparing a meal for the Open Arms shelter in Kentville in the New Year.

Laprade said the WE Day students and many others volunteered their time and efforts to make the Tree of Hope initiative a success.

Grade 8 student Lindsay Hann, who was a part of the EMS contingency that attended WE Day, said the event inspired her to help others. She said it’s great that students could actually be a part of helping Chrysalis House and the Kids Action Program.

She said they’ve recognized that there are members of the community in need of assistance and it’s really important for young people to take an active role in helping their communities. Hann said that being able to help makes her feel really good.

Donations greatly appreciated

Kids Action Program director Suann Boates said there are lots of families in our neighbourhoods facing multiple barriers, primarily poverty, and it’s important that we have awareness of that. It’s great that EMS brings attention to this and celebrates all young people and families.

She said that as we enjoy everything that traditionally goes along with Christmas, it’s important to remember that not all families have that privilege.

The  Kids Action Program is working with families that currently don’t have any heat in their homes. There are others with children in foster care that won’t be together for Christmas. Boates said this impacts both children and parents in a huge way.

“We do lots of work to support those families around this time of year but I think it’s just really important that we acknowledge that we’re very privileged to have what we have and not take it for granted,” Boates said.

She said students at EMS benefit from having awareness and consciousness of that. The Kids Action Program helps about 500 families a year. Boates and her co-workers have been very busy over the past couple of weeks collecting, divvying up and distributing donations.

Students can make a difference

Chrysalis House children’s outreach worker Linda Lapierre said it makes her feel great seeing the EMS students working so hard to help support the two charitable organizations. They learn important social lessons through the experience, including that they can make a difference.

“Kids can learn very soon that they have an influence, they make a difference, so they’re already citizens,” Lapierre said. “It’s great to know that there’s that empathy about other children and other families that might not have the same peace that they have at home and the same Christmas.”

She said they have residents in their shelter that will be spending Christmas there, so the donations from the EMS students will be part of what those residents receive. The items will also be shared with families they work with on an outreach basis. Following the holidays, they often see families that didn’t get to celebrate Christmas. Donations from the students will help these families as well.

“We want to make sure that no kid is left out and that all families receive, so that’s a big help,” Lapierre said.

She said it’s a great feeling for their clients to know that people care and that their community is thinking about them at what can be a difficult time of year.

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