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Burnaby's Taylor Park students learn not to take freedoms for granted

Angela Henning, the principal at Taylor Park School, gives a tongue-in-cheek preview of what the student who wins a raffle to become principal for a day can expect to be doing. The raffle is one of a series of events held at the school this week to raise money and awareness for Free the Children. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Angela Henning, the principal at Taylor Park School, gives a tongue-in-cheek preview of what the student who wins a raffle to become principal for a day can expect to be doing. The raffle is one of a series of events held at the school this week to raise money and awareness for Free the Children.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

It was certainly the hot ticket this week at Taylor Park elementary.

Students at the South Burnaby school were selling raffle tickets as part of its week of activities to raise money to adopt a village in the developing world.

The prize? The chance to be principal for a day.

"The tickets were 25 cents each," said Taylor Park principal Angela Henning. "I think some kids brought $5 or $10."

The week wasn't just to raise money, it was to raise awareness of many of the freedoms that children in the Western world take for granted.

It started as an initiative of Grade 7 leadership students who wanted to do something to support a developing country. Good timing allowed them to participate in the Five Days for Freedom week organized by international children's advocacy group Free the Children.

Each day focused on a different freedom—freedom from poverty, from exploitation, from disease, from thirst, to act—with teachers exploring the themes in classrooms and the leadership students augmenting those lessons with activities loosely based on the theme for the day. (Henning noted with a laugh that the principal-for-a-day raffle came during the day focused on freedom from exploitation.)

Students held a cake walk, and on Wednesday they held a "walk for health" to a spot where four-litre milk jugs filled with water had been placed.

They learned how many children in some countries get sick and die simply because they have no access to health care. And while some students complained that the jugs of water were "so heavy and it's so hard," they were reminded that not only do some children have to do this every day to get water for their families, some don't attend school because they're too busy carrying water, Henning said.

"They were surprised, they didn't realize the extent of it," she said of students' response to the lessons learned.

"After walking today with that water I realized how lucky I am," wrote Grade 4 student Zoe in her reflections. "I feel sorry for the people that do not have what we have. I really want to make a change."

Grade 5 student Sebastian wrote, "It just doesn't feel right that we have everything in stores and it's easy for us but for them (children and families) it's hard, real hard, and they need to have freedom."

As of Tuesday, the students had raised $500 toward a goal of $1,000 which they plan to use to support a village, likely somewhere in Africa.

"It's really brought our school together, working on a common focus for the week, for sure," said Henning.

As for the raffle draw, two students, a Grade 1 boy and a Grade 5 girl, will get to be "principal" on Friday. Henning said they'll help her make announcements, conduct the assembly, visit classrooms, the staff room and the school board office and supervise the playground during recess and lunch.

Will they get to give any errant kids a talking to?

"Perhaps—with me there," she said with a laugh.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/@WandaChow

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