BY: KATHY MCDONALD
I know. What the heck do shirts have to do with education? Let me explain, please. The shirt has everything to do with education, as right now, as you read this article thousands of children in Dominica have nowhere to go to research, collaborate, create and learn. I know I was supposed to deliver the part 2 of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) Test. However, in a future article, I will delve into details about the nitty gritty of the EQAO Test and what it means for your child, their school, the school board and the province. I had to change gears after hearing first hand of the dire straits that many of our “family members” are in. In this big Caribbean Village that many of us belong to as members of the diaspora, we probably are not truly fully aware of the level of desolation in the Caribbean islands that were impacted by Hurricane Maria last month. From an educational standpoint; there are hundreds of thousands of children scattered all across the Caribbean that currently don’t have access to an education as a result of the devastation of their island’s infrastructure. In most cases, these island paradises have been literally obliterated.
So, as someone with a vested interest in education, I started to dig a little deeper to the current situation of these students. Quite simply put, technically, there are no students in these countries as they have nowhere to go to get an education. There are estimates that “over 95% of all buildings are destroyed in Dominica” Some islands have no government buildings that are still standing. I heard about a colleague’s relative that had to walk for three days to get insulin. For any diabetics out there you know that this is a life and death situation for people living with diabetes. Oh, by the way, this would have been a 45-minute drive into town before Hurricane Maria.
I would urge my readers to write your local member of parliament (MP) and ask them to advocate to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, the Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen to examine the current immigration policies and make special allowance for the peoples of the Caribbean that have family members in these affected areas. We as a community should also ask for humanitarian support similar to those extended to refugees. We need compassion for persons with no family members in Canada. After all, these residents of the Caribbean may not be displaced by war or persecution but they have certainly been displaced due to catastrophic weather-related events. They are what I call natural disaster refugees and in my opinion deserve the same considerations. The stories of Maria’s victims have not been getting the airplay they deserve and it’s up to us as sons and daughters of the Caribbean to keep their stories alive.
At Churchville Public School some staff members got together to do raise awareness of the plight of the students of this island. Do you know that Dominica is the only island that has a Carib (Kalinago) reserve? These indigenous peoples of Dominica, the first peoples of the Caribbean (in fact that’s where the name Caribbean is derived from) also lost everything. It is vital in my mind to help restore and preserve their way of life. There is so much culture, history, and archives that are in peril of being lost forever. On October 31st the entire staff and students at Churchville held a spooktacular event. The students brought in non-perishable food items or donations for the Dominican Relief. Kudos to the social justice committee for planning this event which involved “giving rather than getting”. What is even more impressive that the social justice committee student leaders championed this initiative. They are even planning on giving a portion of the donations to a school in an economically depressed area of Brampton. This school has a family food kitchen. So, families right here in Brampton that need a little help to feed their children will also benefit. These kinds of initiatives that are student-led always warms my heart and renew my faith in this generation. With all the issues that may plague our society, I am always impressed by this generations a keen sense of social justice.
I am fully aware that a lot of us are suffering from donation fatigue and quite frankly have been inundated with requests for help. Please rethink your position and give to this relief effort for Dominica. Think of this as an opportunity to clear out your closet and donate things that are in your homes and are not serving any useful purpose. Just imagine the difference these underutilized items in your house can make to your “Caribbean cousins”. If you are able to purchase an extra toiletry item, toothpaste, deodorant or soap please do so and drop it off. The island also needs school supplies so the children can still read, write and draw. The organizers have secured free shipping of goods. Please feel free to contact me at 905-796-8163 for more information on how and where you can bring any donations. I will be organizing an additional drop off sight. Please follow me on twitter @TrusteeMcdonald or visit my Facebook page ‘Kathy McDonald’ for the details. So, Walk Good. Belle Marché!