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VIDEO: Students in Abbotsford make a big difference with small items for refugees

Sandy Hill elementary’s Grade 5 students created 500 personal hygiene kits for new Canadians

The Grade 5 students at Sandy Hill elementary didn’t know they were capable of such big things.

That was the resounding message from the kids as they filled 500 bags with personal hygiene products for refugees last week.

It all started with the curricular lessons in immigration and discussions about current events, namely the conflict in Ukraine. From there, the four Grade 5 classes decided to try to help local arrivals. Their teachers got in touch with Cindy Buhler, a case worker for the Archway Community Services program called Moving Ahead, to find out what they could do.

They learned that some of the smallest items in the home could be some of the most important, including shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant.

They set out to gather as much as of those small things as possible, going around the school to all the classrooms to appeal to their fellow students. Those students then went home and told their parents, and their neighbours, and so on and so on.

For nearly two months, the boxes in the hallways filled up with personal hygiene products.

Once they had what seemed like enough, they booked the school gymnasium and all 90-something Grade 5s and their teachers and EAs made quick work of it. They sorted out stations for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, deodorant, and extras.

Then they filed through the gym, quickly and over and over again, filling large plastic freezer bags with an assortment of items.

One student was thrilled when she told her neighbour about the project. The neighbour happened to be a dentist, and happily donated a number of items.

“It surprised me that we could have an impact,” one student said.

“Ya,” her friend said. “By doing little things you can do a lot.”

And their donation has done a lot. It’s ensured that the next several hundred refugees into Abbotsford will have their very basic hygiene needs met almost immediately.

“This is such a generous gift,” Buhler said.

Moving Ahead is one arm of the settlement program for new Canadians through Archway. Buhler says the students have set the program for a while. They see about 20 to 30 families coming into Abbotsford on a monthly basis.

And while Ukraine is the area receiving the most media attention in the western world, there are still refugees arriving from Afghanistan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Syrian, Iraq and Iran.

Moving Ahead is an enhanced program that deals with those families with high needs, including families dealing with disabilities.

Every little thing helps a new Canadian settle in, and every donation helps the program by meeting a need for them.

Buhler has been with the program for 12 years and doesn’t recall ever working with a school before. They picked up the truck load of donations on Monday, and said the students were ready with some insightful questions.

And while they won’t need any hygiene items for some time, there are other ways to help the settlement programs.

For more information on the services available, and how to help, visit

“Try helping out,” one of the students told The News, when asked for advice for the community. “Donate what you can.”

READ MORE: Ukraine refugees near 4 million, will exodus slowdown last?


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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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