Our Partnership with Rotary International

The Social Justice Club has recently been approached by Rotary International, the largest service organization in the world, with over 1.2 million members. They offered that the club becomes an Interact club. The latter entails that we join a vast network of clubs across the globe engaging in service activities such as the ones we have previously done and continue to do. The club would be sponsored by the Rotary Club of Montreal-Westward. It could receive benefits such as financial support, and guidance with the organization of fundraisers. For more information about Rotary International, please visit https://www.rotary.org/

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The Well in Mnjale

Two months ago, the Social Justice Club was approached by the Theresa Foundation, a charitable organization from Montreal that supports grandmothers in Malawi whose children were killed by the HIV/AIDS crisis, and whose grandchildren were left without parents. The grandmothers were then forced to take care of their grandchildren, a difficult task for their frail bodies. Fortunately, the Theresa Founation has been there to help them. The foundation has now expanded to helping young children have an education by building wells. What do the two have in common, you ask?

The children were responsable for fetching water for their families to drink from faraway wells. Their journey to the wells could take as long as 6 hours roundtrip. This, along with their other responsibilities, prevented them from having time to receive an education. The Theresa Foundation’s construction of wells allowed the children who were financially capable of doing so, to go to school. The Foundation has also sponsored children who were financially unable to have their own education.

The Social Justice Club was proud to partner with the Theresa Foundation for their latest project, building a well in the village of Mnjale. Our Rice and Water fundraiser during Social Justice Week raised enough money to fund the entire well. Together, we raised $5150!

Also, the Theresa Foundation is holding its largest annual fundraiser at Dawson College between May 7 and May 10. They will be presenting a play in order to raise funds for their various projects in Malawi. For more information on the Foundation, and their play, please visit http://www.theresafoundation.com/home.html

Social Justice Week 2014

During the week of March 17th, the Social Justice Club held its annual “Social Justice Week” in order to raise awareness on a variety of issues present in the world today. Unlike some of the other fundraisers we have done this year, Social Justice Week was intended to raise awareness about certain issues and give students the opportunity to do something about them.

On Monday, a game show was hosted by two of our most committed members, Kristen and Natasha, in front of a small group of students in room 212. It was intended as an informative and interactive session in order present facts and issues that were previously unknown to most students. Also on this day, students participating in Rice and Water began their 24 hour fast in order to raise awareness about those who don’t have enough food. Each participant in the fast would have to pledge $50 and all funds raised would go towards the Theresa Foundation and their project to build a borehole well in the village of Mnjale, Malawi. For more information on the Theresa Foundation, visit their website here: http://www.theresafoundation.com/

On Tuesday, hungry Rice and Water participants ate their only meal of the 24 hour fast which consisted of two cups of rice. Meanwhile, in the computer lab, a small group of about half a dozen students participated in activities on http://freerice.com/, a UN website that contains quizzes on various subjects. 10 grains of rice are donated to those in need for every correct answer in one of the quizzes. Together, we raised nearly 20 000 grains of rice in about half an hour, an impressive feat. After school, Rice and Water participants stayed for a “breaking of the fast party”, which included pizza.

On Thursday, we unfortunately did not hold any activities, but were able to sell samosas in the west wing. We sold nearly all of the samosas that we had ordered on that day alone, and by the end of the week, we had sold out. Meanwhile, in the foyer, we handed out ribbons of different colours, each one representing a different Social Justice issue and we collected donations for the Trevor Project.

On Friday, the final day, we had the biggest turnout of any activity as Rice and Water participants came to 212 to listen to guest speakers representing the Theresa Foundation. They spoke about the current situation of Mnjale and the construction of the borehole well which we were fundraising for. It was a very informative session that allowed students to understand the importance of their participation in the fundraiser, and the impact that it would have.

The Social Justice Club would like to thank all of those who participated in the activities held during Social Justice Week as well as the volunteers who made this event possible. We hope that you will continue to support the club in our future endeavors, such as our final fundraiser of the year, which will be officially launched in the coming weeks.

KC Tsiolis

2013 Recap

The year 2013 has been filled with highs and lows, the loss of great club members, and the addition of new members. All in all, the first part of the 2013-14 school year has been a success. Here’s a look at the year so far.

September: Club members receive news that the Malawi trip has been cancelled because the village could not be accommodated. Instead, the club would have a trip to Turkey in March 2014. A brand new executive committee is formed and regular Tuesday meetings begin under the guidance of Ms. Smiley.

October: The club begins selling samosas in order to collect donations for Humane Society International, an animal rights charity.

November: The club begins its first real fundraiser called the Homeroom Competition, which lasted for four weeks. Samosas are sold during Parent Teacher night and help raise more donations for Humane Society International.

December: The club receives news that the Homeroom Competition raised over $300, including $80 from homeroom 212 and $70 from homeroom 206. Samosa sales finished the 2013 portion of the school year with $500.

And that concludes the year 2013. We’d like to thank everyone who contributed to our fundraisers and have a happy New Year!

KC Tsiolis

Dans La Rue and Chez Doris

As you may already know, the Social Justice club will be fundraising for Dans La Rue for the next three months as part of our second unit of the year. Dans La Rue is a charitable organization that works to aid homeless youth in the Montreal area. It celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. The charity was founded by Father Emmett Johns and started as a small van that roamed Montreal streets overnight offering homeless youth blankets and soup. It eventually expanded and now has two shelters, one for the daytime, and one for the nighttime.  Organizations like Dans La Rue will be depended on by many homeless people during the coming snowstorm. For an organization like Dans La Rue, who depends on volunteers and donations, it will be a difficult time.

Chez Doris is a women’s shelter in which Ms. Smiley, the club’s teacher advisor, used to volunteer at. It offers many services to all women and is considered a safe haven by many. The club is hoping to have a drive for hygiene products, which the shelter lacks, within the next three months.

Here are the links to both Dans La Rue and Chez Doris for more information:

http://danslarue.com/

http://chezdoris.ca/

KC Tsiolis

Animal Rights Fundraising

Hello everyone! For the last 3 months, the Social Justice Club has worked hard in fundraising for Humane Society International Canada through samosa sales and the Homeroom Competition. The fundraising was a huge success, with a total of $800 raised!

The club has been selling samosas for years and it has been one of our major sources of donations. They are a big hit among RWA students and sell for a very good price. The SJC sells samosas every second Thursday, in order to prevent conflict with the caterers. So far this year, we have sold around 500$ worth of samosas! This came from only 6 Thursdays and one Parent-Teacher night. So if you haven’t tried one already, be sure to buy a samosa next Thursday in the west wing!

The Homeroom Competition, which lasted one month, did not start off well for us. Through the first 2-3 weeks, we had not collected that much because there simply wasn’t enough publicity about the fundraiser. We came up with the idea of assigning “homeroom reps” again. These reps would circulate during homeroom period in order to advertise and collect donations. This worked very well for the club. We got very large contributions from Homerooms 212 (the winners, over $80 raised) and 206 (the runners-up, $70 raised). The SJC finished the month of November (or “Movember”) with over $300 raised from the Homeroom Competition.

All in all, the first three months have gone quite well for the club, especially the month of November. With this, we will wrap up our unit on animal rights and move on to homelessness. We plan on fundraising for Dans La Rue and doing a drive for Chez Doris. More information on homelessness and updates from the club will be coming soon!

KC Tsiolis

The Charter of Quebec Values

The PQ tabled its latest controversial bill on Thursday, Bill 60. The new bill would force people working for the government (such as teachers) to remove their religious symbols such as the kippah, hijab, crucifix, niqab, turban as well as any finger rings or earrings. It was proposed in early September by minister Bernard Drainville and the reaction has been mixed. I, personally, am totally against the charter.

The Charter of Quebec Values strip people of their basic fundamental rights, such as freedom of religion. It is actually ironic because in one of the videos promoting the Charter, the minister stated that one of the concepts represented by this bill was freedom of religion. It is believed that religious neutrality can be achieved by the complete removal of religion. Therefore, the people of Quebec will be united without the boundaries of religion to separate them. How exactly will we be united if the public opinion on the Charter is divided? How can we be united if we constantly hear about cases of Muslim women being verbally or physically abused because of what they’re wearing on their heads? Wouldn’t the passing of this bill only make this worse? Also, what makes the government think that by wearing the headscarf, Muslims are promoting or trying to impose their religion on others? Why would it make a difference if the doctor operating is wearing a kippah? Does the quality of the service go down?

The PQ clearly does not understand the idea of fundamental rights and it is going against the Quebec Charter of Human Rights. Maybe this is never meant to get through and it is just a ploy to win the majority they have been seeking. With the majority, they could pass the bill, which would then be contested by the Supreme Court of Canada. In that case, Quebec would accuse Canada of not allowing them to make decisions for themselves and call a referendum. Either way, the fact that this bill is being taken so seriously and that we are still not talking about economy irks me.

KC Tsiolis

Humane Society International

As mentioned in the last post, the Social Justice Club will be donating all funds collected over the next few months to Humane Society International, a charity focused on defending animal rights. They are one of the more prominent organizations defending animal rights and have a Canadian branch, which we will be donating to specifically. 

HSI does not focus on one particular animal, but takes on a broader range. For example, it is advocating for the removal of battery cages for hens, the abolition of puppy mills and stopping the seal hunt. It is located right here in Montreal and the Canadian branch alone has tens of thousands of members, while internationally, it has more than 11 million members worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.hsi.org/world/canada/.

You can help by taking part in the annual Homeroom Competition, which begins tomorrow. The club will set up a table in the west wing and collect donations for the charity. Donations we collect will count as points for the donors’ homerooms. Donors can “bomb” other homerooms by making their donation count as negative points towards those homerooms. The homeroom with the highest net donations will win a pizza lunch! The competition ends on November 15th.

KC Tsiolis

Social Justice Club 2013-2014

The Social Justice Club has made some major changes this year. First of all, our Malawi fundraiser ended last year and we successfully donated over $15,000 to the Chilanga Clinic! Secondly, our executives of last year graduated and we needed a new committee to better manage the club. Now the committee is formed of students from Grades 9, 10 and 11. The first order of business for the executives was to decide what to focus our fundraising on. It was decided that we would donate to Humane Society International (Canadian Branch) for the first part of the year. They are an organization that focuses on the prevention of animal cruelty, similarly to the SPCA. More information on the topic will come in the next few weeks! Remember that you can always join the club as long as you are a student at Royal West Academy and can come to room 212 every Tuesday at lunch. Lastly, please be sure to like our Facebook page called “RWA Social Justice Club”!

KC Tsiolis

What’s new with Social Justice Club this year?

In a little space on the 2nd floor west wing that we call 215, under the guidance of our teacher advisor Ms Cukier, I`ve found a home. In our weekly Tuesday lunch meetings we tackled on multifaceted issues such as the drought in Somalia, First Nations rights and pipelines, Kony 2012, Fair Trade, the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, women in advertising and today, corporate abuse in the Niger Delta, LGTB rights, sweatshops, the student protests and the list goes on. At the end of the year, here’s what we have to celebrate:

This year, we launched our new project with Makupo which consists of fundraising to build a medical clinic in rural Malawi. After having fundraised to built two wells and a half and school room and lab room and changed the world of thousands of people the community said that what they needed was a clinic. As you may know, we will be fundraising 20 000 over a period of two years.  The count has passed 9300$, but with one more samosa sale, homeroom campaign finishing up and more donations to be counted, we will be giving you an official announcement on where we are at for our 10 000 goal next year. You may also check our club website for this update.

We raised 400$ for the housing crisis in Attawapiskat. This money went to Habitat for Humanity who has long term projects there.

In addition, we held coats and boots drive in December and four big garbage bags or so went to Dans la Rue.

Subsequently, the Social Justice Club website (https://rwasjc.wordpress.com/) was majorly revamped so as to include both our now online newsletter the Activist and information about our campaigns and projects. In order to increase our transparency and accessibility to the school community, we have also contributed more student articles to RWA Newsletter and held a table during Parent Teacher Interviews.

With approval from cafeteria services, the Change 4 Change jar was introduced and rests in the caf in order to make it easier to donate to the Malawi Clinic Fund.

After having disappeared momentarily last year, our yummy samosas sales, a Social Justice Club speciality, have been re introduced with all profits going directly towards the Malawi Clinic Fund.

In order to celebrate Social Justice Week (see https://rwasjc.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/social-justice-week-2012-recap/), we held activities throughout February 20 to 23rd. This included our annual Rice & Water Fundraiser where students experience living on 2L of water a day and a limited amount of plain rice while being educated and fundraising for the Malawi Clinic. Letter writing against the Northern Gateway Pipeline also took place. Incidentally, we recently received a reply from the Environment Minister. This is posted on the club website. Furthermore, a freerice.com marathon was held. For every vocabulary question you get right on freerice.com, 10 grains of rice are donated to people who are hungry via the United Nation`s World Food Programme. Fair Trade chocolate was given to the top freericer amongst other awareness and lunch assemblies.

Furthermore, In order to remember Iva, a former graduate of Royal West who was brutally murdered, (see https://rwasjc.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/end-violence-against-women/) and celebrate the White Ribbon Campaign, a club meeting focused on traditional gender roles defined by the media and how the objectification of women in advertising is correlated to gender based violence. Violence against women stats were posted around the 2nd floor west wing with the words Unite to End Violence Against Women, echoing the United Nation`s campaign. On 215`s bulletin board, we pinned up last year`s March Against Violence Against Women banner.

Our Helping Hands collective mural fundraiser beautified the 2nd floor west wing and raised about 556$ for the Malawi Clinic. For 5$, the Royal West Community was invited to leave their mark on our mural.

In order to celebrate May 17, International Day against Homophobia, organized by next year’s leadership Sara Derrick and Afshana Ahamed, we held a table in the foyer distributing rainbow color ribbons in order to show our solidarity. The discrepancies in opportunities and discrimination that the LGTB (Lesbian Gay Transgender Bisexual) still face today were highlighted during a club meeting and through stats posted on the 2nd floor west wing.

On May 25, we had a mini club hang out field trip about Universal Accessibility  in order to celebrate our club and see social justice in action. We went around Montreal West`s establishments and, using a checklist available on the website, assessed their degree of accessibility and gave them our assessment.

Thank you to the Environment Committee for helping us sell our samosas and the Student Life Association for their fundraising assistance. We hope to deepen our partnerships in the coming years.

On a final note, I need to say that Social Justice Club has truly been a gift to me. Whether it was the way that it personally challenged me, as both an eager member and club coordinator, or the people who’ve touched my heart there, I wouldn`t be the person that I am today if I didn`t go that first meeting. So thank you Ms Cukier and each and every one of you at Royal West who’ve encouraged us, been involved or even committed.

By Bao Chau Bui