Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, English coffeehouses were often the sites of conversation and social interaction, ranging from gossip and fashion to politics, philosophy and natural science.
Last Saturday evening, the students at Elmira District Secondary School took that concept one step further by holding their second-annual Café for Change in the school’s cafeteria in an effort to raise funds for a pair of worthy causes.
The café was organized by the school’s Youth in Action group which, in partnership with the Toronto-based charity Free the Children, was raising money to help continue to fund a school in the African nation of Namibia, as well as for the Canadian charity Shannon’s Dream, which funds aboriginal education programs here at home.
“Our group is really about giving people the tools to empower themselves, and not just giving them money or charity,” said 18-year-old Madeline Charnuski, who just completed her first year at the University of Waterloo but returned to EDSS to help organize the café for a second year.
“Last year we bought a new photocopier for the teachers so they don’t have to write out all their lessons each day, and we bought desks to help empower the kids.”
For $5, patrons got a slice of pie and a cup of coffee or tea, and they sat in the darkened EDSS cafeteria and listened as Steph Sellers, Alex Minor, Ronnie Connors, Steph and Brittany Strauss, and Nathan Jagger and Jordan Baker – better known as “Strings of our Fathers” – played live music.
The students have set up a bank account in the high school’s name to transfer the money raised directly to the charities.
“We’re really different that way than a lot of other charities you might donate to,” said 19-year-old Hayley Clin, who also helped organize the event. “We’re not taking any money back to run this club, all the donations go to help.”
The group also offered raffle prizes which were donated by local businesses, and the tea and coffee was all donated by the Robin’s Nest Café on Church Street. They also had a slide show to illustrate to patrons where the funds were going.
Overall the group raised about $1,500 and saw about 150 pass through the doors. Although both numbers were short of the approximately $2,500 and 200 people that the first event brought in, organizers are still optimistic about future events and continuing to help out however they can.
“We wanted people to be able to come in and just really enjoy themselves and relax,” said Clin. “We’re trying to get the kids around town involved so they can know what’s going on in the world as well.”