With immunizations, passports and visas crossed off their to-do list, all that’s left is for four Grade 12 École Victor-Brodeur students to pack their bags.
For Nicholas Côté and Yann Lacoste, their excitement over travelling to Senegal got the better of them and they got a head start on filling their suitcases – with clothes and footwear they plan to leave behind for the kids they meet in the west coast African nation.
“We were down at Value Village last weekend buying funky clothes to take with us,” said Côté. “We won’t be bringing them back.”
It seems the lessons they’ve been learning in international citizenship – their two-year distance learning course – have already stuck.
“I can read statistics all day about Africa,” said Kluane Buser-Rivet, who is also going. “I think this will push me to be active, more than what I am already doing.”
“The only way to learn is to be there,” Côté added.
It’s the first time Victor-Brodeur students are joining 21 other francophone high school students from across B.C. on the trip since the course was first offered in 2008 by the B.C. francophone school board. The students leave March 16 and return April 1.
The students must each pay $4,000 for the trip, in addition to $12,000 they have collectively raised every year in support of the struggling schools they will visit.
“I believe (our trip to) Africa broadens our worldwide experience,” said Côté.
“I’m looking forward to talking with people because we do have a language in common,” said student Élise Cliche. The teens will be able to converse with ease with the Senegal people since they too speak French.
During the whirlwind trip, they’ll interact and play sports with students, help them plant coconut trees as a source of school revenue and visit an orphanage for two days where they’ll bottle feed babies and play with the kids.
“They will see a difference between their world and the world over there,” said distance learning school principal Christian Côté.
“The important thing is that they see that difference.”