Sk’aadgaa Naay generosity makes a difference in Cambodia

  • Mar. 24, 2010 12:00 p.m.

Hundreds of Cambodians are benefitting from fresh, clean water thanks to the generosity of students half a world away at Skidegate’s Sk’aadgaa Naay elementary. The students have been collecting and sorting juice boxes and cans from school lunches for the past three years, and sending the refunds to a Canadian agency working in Cambodia. So far, teacher Martin Favreau said, they have sent enough money to build 21 wells at a cost of around $150 each, and one fish pond. Mr. Favreau has visited Cambodia several times and seen for himself the work being done there by the Tabitha Foundation. When he first suggested to his French Immersion class that they could help out by collecting juice boxes and pop cans, they were enthusiastic. Their efforts have also made them much more conscious of the importance of clean water and the need to conserve it, he said. The students understand that the people in Cambodia are poor, but Mr. Favreau said it’s hard to understand how poor they are without visiting the country. He has seen people living in shelters made of twigs and plastic bags, with barely anything to eat. “These are people who can’t often think past their next meal… Their mindset is based on survival,” he said. “Once they get water, it changes everything.” Each well provides clean water for around three families. Besides obvious uses for drinking, cooking and hygiene, the water allows the families to grow vegetable gardens and fruit trees, Mr. Favreau said. The entire school, including the janitors, helps collect the recyclables, he said. For the first two years, the French Immersion class did the sorting, and this year they have been joined by Marg Murdaugh’s grade 1-2 class. Mr. Favreau then takes the recyclables to the bottle depot, and sends the money on to the Tabitha Foundation. Cambodia is not the only country the students have helped. The French Immersion class organized a very successful fundraiser for Haiti last month to help the victims of the earthquake there. They have also been fundraising for their own trip to Mallardville, the oldest French community in BC, which the class will visit in May. Mr. Favreau said the students did discuss whether they should start putting the recyclable refund money towards their Mallardville trip instead of the Cambodian wells. “We talked about it,” he said. “But they said no, we’ve got enough money… We’re all very proud of what we’ve done and we’ll continue with this.”