As Glenlyon Norfolk School kindergarten teacher Bob Eagle reflects on his time in India, images of child destitution are fresh in his mind.
“When you hear or read about it, it’s just ‘out there,’” he says. “(But) when you see it, it’s real.”
Surrounded by dozens of smiling kindergarten students in colour-coded shirts, kicking soccer balls, hunting for stuffed animals and making sculptures out of gum, the contrast is striking for him.
“Kids here, they have more than they need. I feel that link quite strongly.”
His experience overseas – he has travelled to India three times now – has opened his eyes to how fortunate the children at his school are. He wanted to take some of that excess and pass it around, helping a country he fell in love with in 2007.
“(We are) engaging these kids in engaging outside of themselves and contributing,” he says of the GNS kindergarten class. “Planting a seed.”
The seed is a fundraiser, dubbed the GNS Amazing Race for India. With their parents’ help the schoolchildren collected sponsorships, then completed tasks or overcame obstacles around the Beach Drive junior school set up by volunteers and school staff.
Loosely based around the popular TV program, where globetrotting participants complete time-based challenges and obstacles, the reward for GNS students was a collection of more than $5,000 for children in India.
The donation will outfit more than 130 children with uniforms and school supplies for a year, at a cost of about $38 per child. The state provides the school and the teacher, but families must bear the cost of supplies.
Fundraiser co-chair Jennifer Bell says the local group has connected with a representative in India. He identifies children with the greatest need and works with the families to ensure the money is spent on schooling.
That a relatively small amount can go so far was one reason 13-year-old Monterey middle school student Adrienne Henderson wanted to get involved. She has spearheaded a project with her classmates to raise funds to send Indian children to school.
“This has been an amazing experience,” she says. “It’s about getting out there and helping, I like having the feeling of helping others.”
Today she is manning the obstacle course as students scramble up “The Cave,” a spaceball shaped climbing structure, and a treasure hunt for stuffed animals nearby. As she calls out to the children by name, the smile on her face is as broad as those on the five and six year olds.
“It is really fun to work with kids, they are adorable,” the Oak Bay resident says. “It is nice we (also) get to see the impact we have on kids in India.”
Adrienne is convinced that young children and youth like herself are capable of making a difference. While some people might think teens are “self-absorbed,” she believes young people can have a huge impact, especially in situations such as this.
“We can break the cycle of no school and (of) poverty. It is nice to feel I could be a part of that.”
Eagle can’t agree more.
“(We want to) create the imprint,” he says. “The effect goes on and ripples through time.”
To learn more about the fundraiser, visit gns.kidzhelpingkidz.weebly.com or call GNS at 250-370-6854.