Janet Martin’s kindergarten class has been collecting school supplies for the last two weeks to assemble school kits for children around the world. They will be sent through Mennonite Central Committee.
Lori Martin’s son Isaac is in the class and she volunteers with the class every other week. She used to work for MCC and decided to present the idea to the class.
“I’m pretty familiar with all the kits and I thought this one is probably the easiest for kids to identify with. I always find with Christmas and all the consumerism hubbub that it’s kind of nice to shift the focus a little bit,” Lori said.
The students were excited about the idea right from the get go. They estimate they collected enough items for 10 to 15 kits.
“I send a letter home every week and I think [Lori] came in on a Thursday. I had a couple parents actually contact me Friday because my letter doesn’t go home until Friday but they had gone home [on Thursday] and said ‘I need to bring stuff in.’ They were so excited about it right away,” Janet said.
Janet says it’s been a great project for the students to open up their world a little wider. Needing school supplies is something they can relate to because the items in the kits are things the Floradale students use every day. Janet made a point to talk to the class about how there are many children in Ontario and across the globe who can’t afford school supplies.
“I had one little guy say ‘these pencils are from my mom and these pencils are from my collection.’ That was really cool for them to do that,” Janet said.
Some students kept forgetting to bring in items, but when reminded at school they said how they really wanted to bring them in. Janet used it as a learning activity by having the students write themselves a reminder note to take home.
And the next day, lo and behold, they remembered to bring in the items.
“They’ve done so well. A lot of them did not just bring in one thing, they brought in multiple things,” Janet said.
The kits include four spiral or perforated notebooks of 140 pages each, eight unsharpened pencils, one flat, flexible plastic ruler indicating both 30 cm and 12 inches, 12 coloured pencils in the package and one large pencil eraser.
Lori explains every child receives an identical amount of items in their kit.
The school kits are distributed in reusable drawstring cloth bags, which are made by volunteers. She notes many sewing clubs volunteer to make the bags.
And it’s been a great activity to watch her son become engaged with.
“I went out and got the stuff, Isaac had asked me to get it, but it wasn’t like ‘here, you’ve got to take this to school for Mrs. Martin.’ He was like ‘oh, when can I take my stuff?’” Lori said.
MCC shipped 89,958 school kits last year to countries like Jordan, Syria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lebanon, Haiti, the U.S., Serbia and Honduras. For others looking to participate, completed kits can be dropped off at the MCC office in Kitchener or the MCC Thrift Shop in Elmira.
Janet says the best part of this has been watching the students being able to give back at such a young age.
“I think that’s what’s made it real, that there are kids just like me, the same age, that don’t have these things every day at school. And now I’m allowing them to have what I have at my school. I think that’s the biggest thing. The excitement in knowing they’re helping other children,” Janet said.