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News: Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Compassion Project: Understanding Homelessness in Our Community


Grade 3 students in Mrs. Debbie Mar’s class have been involved in a special project that has raised their awareness of homelessness inspiring them to take action, thereby making a difference in the lives of the marginalized members in their local community.  After hearing a story students became actively engaged in a powerful discussion about the growing homeless situation in Abbotsford. This was not the intent of the lesson but the dialogue was so passionate and intense that it ethically warranted further investigation. Students genuinely wanted to understand the causes of homelessness, what the homeless community needs and what they could do that would make a significant difference.


The class in partnership with Jesse Wegenast a homeless advocate who works directly with the homeless community came up with a way to brighten the Christmas season for those who struggle tremendously; especially this time of year. Jesse has recently helped establish a new shelter for older adults offering a quiet and calm reprieve - the first of its kind in Canada. He felt it would brighten the hearts of those who visit the shelter to see it decorated for Christmas. In addition, the students willingly gave up the Secret Santa exchange in the classroom for the opportunity to fill a stocking for someone at the shelter. As Christmas break drew closer students approached the tasks before them with importance; creating paper decorations, filling stockings and writing a collaborative poem titled Reaching Out offering words of inspiration and hope - a copy of which was placed in each stocking (read poem below).

Reaching Out   

We see you
You are important You matter
You are beautiful
Carry hope wherever you go
Never lose faith in yourself
Never give up on your dreams
Dream hard Keep believing in yourself
Carry courage in your heart
Be brave Be strong
Keep light in your heart
Believe in the ripple of kindness
Find beauty in moments
Believe that something great will happen around the corner
We wish you warmth and a safe home
We wish you peace and happiness
We wish you love and friendship
Keep your heart shining bright
Love is in you
We will keep you in our hearts
We see you
You are important You matter
You are beautiful

-collaborative poem by Div. 3


On December 19, students and their families braved blustery winter conditions to deliver gifts and decorate the shelter. Students worked seriously with a great sense of purpose as they decorated and organized mats at the shelter. They felt empowered realizing they were making a real difference in the life of the marginalized members in their community.


KEVIN MILLER: (Author, Editor, Filmmaker, Educator)

Kevin Miller will visit the grade 3 classroom  Wednesday, January 17. He will talk about his new novel “Unlimited” in the Milligan Creek series and do a persuasive writing workshop with the students. Kevin has been connected to the homeless issue in Abbotsford and has produced a documentary which features Jesse Wegenast whom the class has been working closely with on the “Shelter Project.” This documentary became an international news story. In the writing workshop students will learn about Kevin’s work with the homeless and use their new knowledge to write a letter to the mayor, newspaper, and MLA advocating for the welfare of the homeless people in the community.

The world is a better place with such compassionate students who are striving to create change in their local community through empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, writing, and action. Mrs. Mar’s grade three class needs to be commended for their leadership in demonstrating that even young students can be catalysts in creating positive change, thus making a vital and noteworthy difference in the life of another a human being and in their community.