When Brooklyn Elementary students Adria and Brynn were given the task to drive change in their community last spring, their minds immediately settled on improving local healthcare.
Originally wanting to raise money for the new Comox Valley Hospital being built, their teacher Heidi Jungwirth helped the students narrow their focus down to something more specific. That’s when the girls both reflected on their personal experiences at St. Joseph’s Hospital, and decided to help other kids like themselves.
“Me and Adria have both been to the hospital,” Brynn said. “I’ve been three or four times, and I always felt weird in there. Once my mom had to leave me to go into work, so I was in a room alone and it was a bit scary.”
“We thought that it would be nice if kids had something to hold onto and to feel more comfortable, so we thought stuffies would be a good idea.”
To raise the money needed to buy the stuffed animals, the girls held a bake sale in the main foyer of Brooklyn Elementary in May, selling freezies and popcorn to fellow students, and raised over $216. After making a few calls around the Comox Valley, Brynn and Adria chose Superstore when the business offered a $50 discount for their cause. After purchasing two boxes of new stuffed animals, the girls brought them straight to St. Joseph’s Hospital and presented the boxes to hospital volunteers.
From there, the stuffed animals were brought up to Pediatrics, where volunteers and staff could choose a special stuffie for sick or injured children staying at St. Joseph’s Hospital, and help make their stay a little more comfortable.
After the girls’ visit, two hospital volunteers and Katie from the Comox Valley Healthcare Foundation visited Mrs. Jungwirth’s class to thank Adria and Brynn for their donation. They explained how meaningful the stuffed animals are, and how many children they would help at St. Joseph’s.
“It surprised me how easy it was to make a real change,” said Adria.
“We didn’t know how much of a change it would make,” Brynn added. “It could have been a big change or not, but it turned out it made a really big change, which was nice.”
Last spring was Mrs. Jungwirth’s first year at Brooklyn Elementary, but it was her third year participating in the Design for Change School Challenge, which is the largest global movement of children driving change. Design for Change originated in India and was created to give young people an opportunity to express their own ideas for a better world and put them into action.
The school challenge soon spread around the world, and School District #71 was the first in Canada to adopt it.
“The idea is that when kids work towards making a change, they become empowered and realize they don’t have to sit around and accept things the way they are,” Mrs. Jungwirth said about Design for Change. “The program asks kids to ‘Feel, Imagine and Do,’ and empowers them to make a real change in their community.”
Mrs. Jungwirth’s Grade 5 class was the only one at Brooklyn that participated in Design for Change last spring, and on June 3, her students were given an opportunity to present their ideas for change to other teachers and classmates.
“We had all sorts of projects,” Mrs. Jungwirth said. “A couple of boys put on a comedy festival, a couple taught kids how to do fun things with Google, and we had a few who were working to stop littering, and lobbied for a garbage can to be put at one place because there was lots of garbage there. Another group wanted a super charger station put in the Comox Valley for electric cars, and they presented to the city of Courtenay and the Town of Comox.”
“When kids try to make change, the decision makers are caught off guard that kids are calling, but they’re also more willing to make that change. It really touches people, and somehow touches their heart more that it’s coming from kids.”
Now in Grade 6 and at the start of a new school year, it’s encouraging to wonder what kind of positive changes Brynn and Adria might make in the community, along with all of the other students who will participate in the Design for Change school challenge this year.
In addition to the dozens of kids they helped directly with their stuffie donations, Brynn and Adria’s project is still touching lives in the Comox Valley. Over the course of the summer, many others have come forward to donate new stuffies to the hospital as well, to help comfort kids at St. Joseph’s when they might be afraid or sad.
“It’s like a pebble in water, creating ripples,” Mrs. Jungwirth said about the Design for Change School Challenge. “When you do just one small change, it can make a big change. That’s what it’s about.”
If you or your class would like to raise money for St. Joseph’s Hospital or the new Comox Valley Hospital, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about Design for Change, visit http://www.dfcworld.com/