NORTH DELTA – It isn’t so much the idea of “If you build it, he will come” as it is “If you come, we can build it.”
A group of senior students at Burnsview Secondary invited the public to a gala on March 3 to raise money for a playground at a second-stage transition house in Surrey.
The genesis of the project began on the picket line last summer with Laura Masini Pieralli, an English and social justice teacher, who was disturbed by a number of newspaper articles about domestic violence.
“I thought this needs to be addressed somehow and if we’re going to address it then we need to involve the youth.”
Pieralli wanted to use the “power of the pen” to get her students involved in writing a collection of narrative essays about their lives and adversity they have faced. It took the Grade 12 students about three months to put it together with the plan of sharing it with the community.
“These are all events that actually happened to them in their lives and if you put that on paper you take the risk to make yourself vulnerable. And if that vulnerability is celebrated, instead of fearing it would rejected or mocked, then they realize that their stories can actually be altruistic and benevolent.”
The essays were printed in a book entitled Enriching Times, which was sold at the gala fundraiser. Thanks to an unexpectedly large turnout to that event, the kids are $9,500 closer to their $30,000 goal for the construction project, which is slated to begin June 12 with the continued generosity of donors.
Pieralli said the project is a means of bridging students with the outside community in a way that can make them feel like their education is an enriching experience.
“When they go home they can put their head on their pillow and know that they’ve given back to the community with something that they’ve done here.”
Student Kara Guloien expressed similar feelings, saying she’s lucky to a part of a group of Grade 12s who want to be part of a movement which works toward a better society.
“In the beginning we didn’t really know much about the social justice topic of domestic violence because it’s not really spoken about and now we definitely have a grasp on how much it affects the community and how much change needs to occur.”
Classmate Amit Basran said he wasn’t prepared for the community’s positive response at the gala, which was attended by Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, B.C.’s Toughest Men, Delta Police Department, Atira and other organizations and community leaders.
Social justice is about more than just an academic credit for Basran, who said every kid deserves the time to play, regardless of what difficult situation they might be in during that period of their life.
“When I was a kid I loved playing on playgrounds so I’m sure everybody should have the right to have fun like that.”