By Lawrence Belanger
Local Journalism Initiative
Students from the École Vision, a private trilingual (English, French and Spanish) institution in Sherbrooke, raised money in February to donate to Camp Massawippi, a summer camp offering sporting, recreational, and leisure activities for children and adults with physical disabilities.
Ariane Valiquette, who teaches fourth grade French at the school and supervised the project, praised the students for their initiative and awareness of their privileged position in society.
“I know they’re big activists. These girls are very autonomous and they’re very driven.”
Four of the students, alongside Valiquette, presented camp director Karl Boulé with the cheque on Thursday afternoon, at a small gathering alongside respite campers and camp staff.
After teaching the six kids for their fourth grade, and doing similar projects on a smaller scale, Valiquette describes how her former students, now in fifth grade, approached her with their initial idea: “they just came to me in the hall and said we have this idea. Can you help us make it work?”
One of the students, Grace Riddell, has a father who sits on the board of the camp, which inspired the idea to raise money to donate to Camp Massawippi. The students wanted to figure out how they could help other people with the means available to them, so they made all sorts of crafts and baked goods to sell at school.
One of the values of the school is to “give back to the community,” says Valiquette, so she volunteered to be “the adult” on the project. However, the first thing was proposing the project to the principal of the school. “They put their…PowerPoint together and pitched the idea,” and the principal, David Hopps, was enthusiastic.
“He said yes instantly, knowing that this is a cause that is important for us.”
According to Valiquette, the students spent their lunch hours making soaps, stress balls, bracelets, and “all kinds of handmade little gifts.” Students and parents also contributed baked goods. The sale, which happened in February, raised approximately $670 over the course of a school day. The students built a stand, donned matching t-shirts, and had gift wrapping available. “They had an iPad to figure out how much money they were making, it was so well organized,” says Valiquette. Students, parents, and staff donated and bought goods, “knowing that all the money would come here [to the Camp].”
“We find ourselves very lucky,” says Valiquette, adding her conversations with students often center around how “we come into school [and] we have all the chances in the world.”
Boulé, speaking to The Record at the gathering, said the donation comes at an opportune time, as the camp seeks to recover in the pandemic. “Every single amount helps,” says Boulé. “Budgets are tighter…food is more expensive,” not to mention people looking for higher wages so that they themselves can also afford to live. The camp, which is 70 years old, also has 15 buildings in various need of renovations.
Cindy Stanford, an adult camper in her 30s who’s been coming to the camp since she was nine, spoke about what Camp Massawippi is like. “It’s really fun and different,” explains Stanford. “I used to come here every summer,” she adds, pointing out this will be her last year attending before she moves out on her own.