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Students tackle global citizenship project

Wednesday, 06 February 2019. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Students tackle global citizenship project

Derek Shackleford wants to help his students look outside themselves and realize they can have an impact in the world. This Grade 6 class is trying to raise money to build a school in Cambodia, so other, less fortunate children can receive an education.

Pictured, from left, are students Jaylene Krassilowsky, Cheyenne Kleinhans-Kaupp, Emily Marsden, Grace Philips, Sophi Bailer, Jessco Crow Shoe, Gurtaranjot Sran, Aynsley Nelson, Nelia Willms, Matthew Payjack, Nate Webb, Avery Cold Weather. Cyrus Spear Chief and Adam Noel. Mr. Shack is in front, wearing red. Missing is Jaela Yellow Horn.   Photo by Jess Harrington

Students tackle global citizenship project

By Jess Harrington

Derek Shackleford’s Grade 6 class has taken on an ambitious project. The 17 Canyon School students are trying to raise enough money to build a school in Cambodia.

Project Cambodia actually started two years ago in Fort McMurray, where “Mr. Shack” taught Grade 9 before moving to Pincher Creek last year.

“It started out as an option class to get the kids to look outside their community,” Mr. Shack recalls.

“We had a connection [to Cambodia] through two ex-teachers that spend half their year [there] volunteering and training other teachers. So I brought this idea to my students and they were like, ‘Yeah, let’s do this!’ ”

Through a combination of in-school events and some community fundraising, Mr. Shack’s Fort McMurray students collected $8,000, which was enough to build two schools in the rural Cambodian region of Battambang.

Seeing the impact the project had on his Grade 9s and, during a family trip to Cambodia last summer, on the students and communities of the schools they funded, Mr. Shack says he knew he wanted to bring Project Cambodia with him to his new home.

“When my wife and I came to this district, we thought it’d be neat to get Livingstone Range [School Division] involved, and partner up with Fort McMurray Public,” he explains. “The administrator at my old school is continuing [the project] there, so now we’ve actually got two districts helping out.”

“The hope … is to start out a little slower and get this going in our community, and then hopefully we can get it into Blairmore, where my wife teaches, and into different schools in the district and make it a bigger thing.”

Mr. Shack’s current class has set a goal of raising at least $1,200 this year, and to achieve this they’re holding a Project Cambodia Week from Feb. 11 to 15 at the school.

Over the course of those five days, the students will hold a series of small in-school fundraising events. These include lunchtime craft and bake sales and a Hats for Project Cambodia Day where students who donate a toonie can wear their hats in class for the whole day. At the end of the week, the class that raises the most money gets to choose a design to shave into Mr. Shack’s hair.

Mr. Shack’s students are excited about Project Cambodia, because it’s fun, as Nelia Willms points out.

“‘I’m excited for the crafts,” she says with a big smile.

And because it’s a chance to do something meaningful.

“I’m excited about making a difference and being able to help other kids and do stuff around the world,” says student Grace Philips. “I like helping people … and I’ve seen what Project Cambodia can do, and it’s crazy because some people have so little and then they have more than they can imagine.”

As Grace speaks, Mr. Shack nods appreciatively, because he knows the message of the project is getting through.

“Part of the social studies curriculum is getting kids to increase their citizenship in the community, outside the community and outside Canada, so this definitely ties in with that,” he says.

“But even if it didn’t, just to get these kids to see outside of their little community, and see that not everyone is as lucky as they are, is neat.”

All the funds raised through Project Cambodia go to a non-profit organization based in Battambang called the Cambodian Organization for Research, Development and Education.

By working directly with CORDE at a grassroots level, Mr. Shack says, they’re able to ensure that 100 per cent of the money raised goes towards school-building.

“There’s no middleman, and that’s one of the things the superintendent [in Fort McMurray] wanted to know — are we losing money down the road?” he explains. “But CORDE has given us access right to their bank account, so all the money goes straight to [CORDE] and from them straight to the schools.”

While the fundraising events next week are meant to be enjoyed by other students at Canyon, Mr. Shack realizes that the wider community may like to get involved, so he has created a Facebook page and a GoFundMe profile and happily welcomes outside donations.

To follow this project and find a GoFundMe link, go to www.facebook.com/ProjectCambodiaSchools and like the page.