Oak Bay High students put social causes in the spotlight

Youth Philanthropy Initiative project earns $5,000 for Anawim House

Fiona MacInnes

Fiona MacInnes

Kathleen O’Donnell can’t remember a year they didn’t get the family Christmas tree from Anawim House.

“I never really knew fully what they do,” said the Oak Bay High student.

That changed a couple months ago not long after teacher Roxanne Taggart tasked the Grade 11 students with Youth Philanthropy Initiative projects.

Teams identify and research a social issue in the community, then analyze local charities that address those issues before visiting that charity and creating a presentation to champion the cause to their peers and a panel of judges.

“(Anawim) was the first charity that popped into my head. It’s the one I was exposed to.” O’Donnell said. She and classmates Eve Kelly-Ralph and Asia Martell created a presentation good enough to earn the top prize at Oak Bay High – a $5,000 donation for their cause, Anawim House.

The program is a win-win-win situation, said Fiona MacInnes, the YPI representative on hand to issue the winning team the cheque for their cause.

Students learn about research and presentation, teachers can utilize it in the curriculum and, of course, the charities receive funds and gain exposure.

“I’m amazed and enthralled every time. They’ve learned something new about the world and they want to share,” said MacInnes. “They had good stage presence. They were very calm. They had lots of information and presented it well.”

The trio of presentations included spoken word poetry, statistics, personal stories and interviews and interaction with the audience, all interspersed with performances by the senior jazz ensemble.

Along the way all the students learned something, from participant to audience member.

“It’s so easy to end up in poverty,” said O’Donnell, recounting the tale of a man they met at Anawim who lost his job. “It really opened our eyes.”

Anawim House started as Anawim Companions Society, a small group of volunteers at St. Andrew’s soup kitchen in the early 1980s. It now features a family-size kitchen, dining area, a large living room and entertainment centre, shower and laundry facilities, a library/board room, offices, an arts and crafts studio, computer work stations, a well-equipped workshop and private bedrooms for seven residents.

“Every aspect of Anawim is a family home,” the girls said in the presentation. The Victoria charity runs on a $220,000 a year budget with four employees, one of which is full time. They provide more than 13,500 meals a year, along with 35,000 cups of coffee, at least 1,800 showers and more than 1,800 loads of laundry.

The other two groups competing in the finale were Daisy Duncan, Jewels Deluca, Traci Webb and Emma Frankenberger promoting the Umbrella Society, where those who have overcome addiction help others “come out the other side” and flourish.

Kole Barnes, Geneva Harrison and Michelle Xin learned all about Rainbow Kitchen in Esquimalt that offers a nutritious, tasty hot lunch to 125 to 140 people a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year.

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com