Teachers recognized for charitable work in Uganda


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May 19, 2015 8:15 AM

Alex Chippin Photo Teachers Nicole Blais (far left) and Jessie Mann (second from left) received the Ken Spencer Award on Thursday, May 14. Under their leadership, Holy Rosary High School and St. Mary's Elementary School have raised more than $10,000 to support Terra Lorenz's (front row, left) Our Village Uganda. - Alex Chippin Photo

Students from Holy Rosary High School and St. Mary’s Elementary School convened in the Holy Rosary atrium on Thursday as teachers Jessie Mann and Nicole Blais were honoured with the Ken Spencer Award.

Mann, the School of global media studies co-ordinator at Holy Rosary, and Blais, a Grade 6 teacher at St. Mary’s, led students in their respective schools in raising over $10,000 for Our Village Uganda (OVU), a program that supports impoverished schools in Uganda.

“Winning the Ken Spencer Award is thrilling because it means the students who are driving this force are receiving the national recognition they deserve,” said Mann.

Since last year, Holy Rosary and St. Mary’s have been communicating frequently with an impoverished school in Uganda via Skype. As they’ve exchanged stories, shared prayer services and learned about each other’s customs, students from both sides of the screen have developed a kinship.

“The kids have learned that they have things in common with kids in Uganda that they would have never thought. We’ve Skyped enough that they’ve kind of gotten to know each other’s likes,” said Blais. “We sang each other’s national anthem, they talked about sports, they talked about different fruit that they had, different foods.”

The inter-school initiative began at Holy Rosary, but grew to include St. Mary’s once Blais and her students heard about the project. The schools also received a huge helping hand from Rick Lucas and the Key Club students, who were also in attendance on Thursday.

Mann and Blais say they plan to continue raising and donating funds to OVU. Much of the money they’ve raised since last year has gone towards improving the Ugandan school’s infrastructure.

“We didn’t have any windows and doors,” said OVU executive director Terra Lorenz, “and so we’ve had the frames put in, they’ve helped us plant our garden, they’ve set up solar power - we didn’t have any electricity - now we have solar power, which is amazing for security, and just even going to school, you need lighting.”

Lorenz says that the funds have also helped some of the school’s top academic students continue their education beyond elementary school.

“In Uganda, you have to pay school fees, especially for schools that give a decent quality education the school fees are a bit more,” she said. “They’ve helped some our kids who have really excelled to go on to junior senior high school.”

While some organizations prefer to donate tangible items, Mann says that donating money suits her because it helps establish sustainability.

“All money raised is put towards steps to one day having ample technology at their fingertips, with less reliance on the government in terms of power,” she said. “And lastly, helping agricultural initiatives to further take reliance off of outside partners.”

As Holy Rosary and St. Mary’s continue to work with OVU, those that wish to support the project can drop off monetary donations at the Holy Rosary front office or contact Jessie Mann, Nicole Blais or Rick Lucas directly.

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