One incredulous look of gratitude and heartfelt “thank-you” from someone living on the streets of downtown Victoria shifted Candra Barber’s outlook on humanitarianism.
The 15-year-old was handing out sandwiches as part of her Leadership course at Oak Bay High when her apprehension about approaching a stranger dissolved.
“You realize they’re just people. They’re so happy for even a sandwich,” the Grade 9 student said. “That feeling, it was a really accomplished feeling. When it’s right in front of you, you see how much it’s appreciated.”
That tangible look and interaction differed from the feeling she got helping build a school in Ghana. That’s really where her humanitarianism started – as a Grade 8 student at Selkirk Montessori, a small school with 14 students in her class.
“Our whole goal for the year was to raise $8,500 for a school in Ghana,” she said.
Through bottle drives and multiple bake sales and Friday Fun Nights for preschoolers – “It was like date night for the parents,” she says, – they pulled it off.
With that background she naturally joined Leadership upon entering Oak Bay High last September. It was just another class, not a chore, despite the early Monday meeting time.
Each group takes turns tackling different projects at school and throughout the community, from in-school recycling and decorating for dances, to handing out sandwiches to the region’s homeless.
They bought flowers and set them on the most deserted looking graves in a graveyard.
“It was respecting the people in random acts of kindness,” she explained. They wore shirts bearing the phrase, “so people would know what we were doing wasn’t creepy,” she said with a laugh.
These are among the reasons Barber earned a 2014 Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star Award.
She was nominated by Leadership teacher Mark Schippers who also highlighted the things she does outside of the course.
Barber herself admits she’s an artistic soul. Art still frames most of her days although she also makes time to run and play tennis.
She’s tried Kendo, as a nod to her Japanese heritage on her mother’s side.
“It did teach me a lot of discipline and respect for my teachers,” she said. “It did grow me up a bit.”
She blends sport and art as a member of the school dance and theatre groups. Barber began dancing at age three with Centrepointe Ballet School and played the lead in Pinocchio at Royal McPherson Playhouse on June 14.
Her work with Greater Victoria Art School dates back almost as far. But despite her artistic leanings, Barber maintains high grades with mostly ‘A’s this year, and feels anything lower than B+ is a disappointment.
“Once you have that feeling of success, you want to grab hold of it,” she said. “And it’s not about making your parents happy. It’s about making yourself happy.”