Students Supporting Students

A Better World Canada is helping young people to help other students in need.

Laura Tester, for Canadian Adventist Messenger
Students Supporting Students
[Photo: A Better World Canada]

You’re never too young to give back. A Better World Canada (ABW), a lay-led Adventist supporting ministry, is witnessing firsthand the dedication that young people in Canada have toward helping others their own age. Among those who have contributed significantly are from École Lacombe Upper Elementary School in Lacombe, Alberta, and Ponoka Secondary Campus in Ponoka, Alberta. These two central Alberta schools have each raised thousands of dollars on behalf of ABW. 

For 18 years, the Lacombe school of sixth- through eighth-grade students has collected donations for Kenyan children. During the most recent school term, students taking part in the Peer Support Program raised CA$652 (about US$488), which was then matched by ABW. The combined CA$1,304 (about US$977) will result in 25 new school desks for a school in southwestern Kenya.

More than just an infrastructure project, it is building bonds between the students so far away from one another. The Lacombe students are engaged through photo updates of the project, ABW co-founder Eric Rajah said. That engagement takes on a whole new level when the students can meet one another. 

The Ponoka high school students decided to support Red Deer youth who need access to flexible learning amid challenging circumstances. So, they took on a difficult task of their own, holding a 30-hour famine fundraiser in May that raised CA$5,200 (about US$3,900) for students at Red Deer’s Alternative School Centre. Half of the money has been allocated to support the school’s recent twelfth-grade graduate Keena Desjarlais, who is now enrolled at MC College, an esthetics, hair styling, and fashion design school that has six campuses across four provinces. The scholarship funds her nine-month program, including materials. 

École Lacombe Upper Elementary School will supply more desks to the Sekanani Primary School in the Masai Mara region in Kenya. [Photo: A Better World Canada]

Rajah said it would have been financially difficult for Desjarlais to attend MC College in Red Deer since she’s a single parent with a three-year-old son. “But now she already has a job lined up for when she graduates, so this program will allow her to make a living and provide for her child,” he said.

Shawna Campos, a social worker at the Red Deer Alternative School Centre, remarked that without the help of students, Desjarlais wouldn’t have been able to pursue further education. 

“I saw the excitement on Keena’s face,” Rajah, who attended the high school graduation ceremony, said. “She is able to continue with her studies and get a job within nine months because of what the Ponoka students have done.” 

The remaining money raised will support the feeding program. The Alternative School Centre will reopen its kitchen to serve hot meals after it was closed during the pandemic.

When students help other students, the benefits are far-reaching. “It’s cultivating that spirit of giving, and this is good for our country and the lives of the children,” Rajah said.

Recipients recognize the donations are coming from adolescents like themselves, not just an organization. “Hopefully, when they’re able to, they’ll be willing to help others as well,” Rajah said.

Schools are invited to do fundraising for an educational project of their choice — whether it’s small, like school textbooks, or large, like new classrooms.

At one point during its 32-year history, ABW had 22 schools taking part in fundraising. Today there are four active ones. Many individual children have collected money over the years, and nearly 220 high school students have travelled to see projects. 

The original version of this story appeared in the October 2022 issue of Canadian Adventist Messenger.

Laura Tester, for Canadian Adventist Messenger

Laura Tester, for Canadian Adventist Messenger