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After three and a half years of starting a non-profit organization, and facing several challenges such as fundraising the start-up money, educating ourselves about the culture, putting together a committed group and defining our mission statement, we were finally ready to create our first event. This event was a fundraising, educational and community awareness event. We were ready to execute it immediately, but little did we know about all the obstacles and hardships we would have to face. We first decided to do a fundraising event and after seeing an OLPC commercial on T.V., we knew that this would be a perfect organization to work with because they work on bridging the digital divide for Aboriginal youth, providing students with the latest technological devices to enhance and empower their education.

One of the biggest obstacles we encountered was that organizations and sponsors were not taking us seriously because we were a student-run organization. We were told that we should firstly be a school club, have a teacher advisor, and there was no way for this organization to work since we were not Indigenous. We wanted to be independent and found the organization ourselves. So we had to prove we were trustworthy and reliable, hoping people would give us a chance. Another obstacle we faced was finding sponsors since several organizations did not trust us because we were a group of students. It took us a long time to find sponsors as we had to make sure we constantly followed up with them and used the connections we had to ensure we had enough financial support for the event. The final biggest obstacle was that we had to make sure that the event’s educational information met the standards of the York Region District School Board.  We were very thankful to have their support and guidance. We were provided with several resources we had to use, and had to pick out useful information to use for games and workshops for the community event. It was a long process because there were always changes to make, whether it was adding more educational games, making the activities more interactive, or relating the information used to the cultural significance. This was an amazing process because not only did we have the opportunity to educate ourselves, but we were able to ensure that the community was able to receive the best educational awareness possible.

Everyday we met for countless hours, whether it was planning and putting together the activities or preparing for the next day. Through this tedious process, it was our friendship that got us through the obstacles and pushed us to overcome adversity. Our passion to educate and bring to light an issue that wasnʼt recognized in our community, pushed us not to give up even when we were told we were embarking on the impossible. Fundraising for twenty-one tablets, seeing families seek guidance to gain Indian status, and spending the day with the children at Garrison Public School was one of the best feelings we ever experienced.

July 25, 2014

Written by: Janani Thillainathan

Change 4 Change: The Overall Process

We all have some version of our own bucket list right? Whether it is to climb Mount Khuiten, go paragliding, or scuba diving in the clear waters of Costa Rica, we all list experiences we wish to achieve in the following year, decade, or lifetime. For the four of us, it was something a little less physically extreme. While working on our Change 4 Change project where we fundraised for tablets for OLPC (One Laptop Per Child Canada) to enhance classroom learning for Aboriginal children, we made our own project bucket list. We knew that at the end of our project, regardless of how much we fundraised, we wanted to be the ones to physically deliver the tablets to the children.

And that’s exactly what we did.

On July 15, 2014, we made our way down to Garrison Public School’s Aboriginal Summer HEAT Program in Fort Erie to deliver 21 XO tablets. As we entered the classroom and took out the tablets, we heard a gasp from almost every single one of the children. We also hosted a small workshop with the children to demonstrate the functions of the tablets and to spend some time with them. Just by seeing their little eyes widen and a smile appear on their faces was enough for us to know that all the all-nighters we pulled, the coffee we drank, and all the classes we skipped (I mean, we did?), was all worth it.

So… I guess that’s one crossed off our bucket list!

We are currently working on some projects so stay tuned and let us know if you have any suggestions or ideas!

July 17, 2014

Written by: Serena Lam

Change 4 Change: Delivering XO Tablets

Picture this scenario: you’re out watching the new horror movie that came out last week with five of your friends. You already planned on having everyone come over to your house, have a few drinks, play some games and reminisce on foolish moments together. The house is nearby, walking distance. However, you find yourself in a sticky situation. Once you’re at your house, you notice the power is out, resulting in a scavenger hunt for the flashlight, in what seems to be a pitch-black setting. It could be in the cupboard or even the basement, but you remembered there could be a ghost lurking around… Jokes on the ghost because it’s the 21st century, everyone’s got an iPhone with the newly installed flashlight app! 

Still with me? Awesome! Because this scenario doesn’t 100% relate to the topic discussed, but it did give an exhilarating rush, no? Me neither. Grab your flashlight now though because our project executed on April 24, 2014 had only one purpose: to bring to light issues happening in First Nation communities.

The evening of April 24, we put together our very first free-admission community event held at a local public school in which three of the four of us attended before. Picture the typical fun fair you’ve seen on TV or even attended in your school. Raffle prizes, spin the wheel, educational workshops, arts and crafts, Aboriginal storytelling, and my favourite: food! The whole first floor of the school was filled with a variety of methods to deliver information about the Aboriginal culture. When I say, “Wow what a turnout we had!” I seriously emphasize the “Wow” part the most. The event was incredibly successful and surpassed our goal of raising $700 that night. By the end, we’ve reached $1160! Not bad for first timers, am I right? Definitely shined the light on this one, not with a flashlight, but with the strongest light known to man. The thought of starting something so revolutionary to the community was the most rewarding feeling yet. The fact that we can really educate so many people starting with four young minds appalls us to this day. It really proves that if you really believe in change, in making a positive difference in your community, you can achieve it.

April 26, 2014

Written by: Jennifer Chi

Change 4 Change: Community Event

I believe the best learning experience is if you immerse yourself into the topic you’re learning. Seeing it face-to-face and truly experiencing it is what causes one to learn most effectively.

That is why today, we brought in Derrick from the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto to conduct workshops for the entire student body at Castlemore Public School.

There were three separate workshops, each workshop designed for the appropriate age group. The first workshop was designed for students who were in Kindergarten, Grades 1 and 2. The second workshop was presented to students who were in Grades 3, 4 and 5. Lastly, the third workshop was conducted for students who were in Grades 6, 7 and 8.

Each workshop included story-telling, performances, and teachings of Aboriginal culture, traditions and history. The stories Derrick told contained symbolic meanings from Indigenous culture, which were very interesting to hear. It was an outstanding way to learn about Aboriginal culture and traditions through these workshops. It was a tremendous interactive, fun and appealing way to educate everyone about the Aboriginal culture. We had a wonderful time and we can’t wait to work with the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto again in the near future!

April 23, 2014

Written by: Hunster Yang

Change 4 Change: Workshops

April 14, 2014

Written by: Hunster Yang

Change 4 Change: Kick-Off Assembly

Today began the 3-week fundraiser event, Change 4 Change. Change 4 Change consists of several different components that fundraise money, educate students and bring awareness of Indigenous culture to the Markham community. All donations from this event will go towards One Laptop Per Child Canada, an organization that provides Aboriginal youth with electronic tablets to enhance their education. 

We hosted a kick-off assembly at Castlemore Public School to start the fundraising event. To begin the assembly, we brought in a few dancers and singers from the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, and they performed terrific traditional songs and dances. Their singing and dancing truly displayed the beauty of Aboriginal culture. It was engaging, exciting and super interactive! I enjoyed every moment of their performance. In addition, two representatives from OLPC Canada came in to speak about their organization, the purpose of fundraising and bringing awareness. They brought in the XO Tablets and passed them around, allowing everyone to see what the money fundraised will go towards. 

Overall, it was an extremely successful, engaging and interactive Kick-Off Assembly for the Change 4 Change Fundraiser. Seeing the students and teachers pumped for this fundraiser gave me excitement for the upcoming events. I can’t wait to see our event, Change 4 Change unfold in the next three weeks!