A.K. Wigg raises $10,000 for Haitian school

A.K. Wigg students watch the assembly attentively, in front of the trophies awarded in the Wigg Winter Classic. VOICE PHOTO

School holds assembly to celebrate Me To We milestone


A.K. Wigg Elementary School held a celebratory assembly last Wednesday afternoon, officially announcing that it had reached its $10,000 goal to sponsor a Haitian classroom. Three years ago the school’s 40-member Early Act club—which partners with the Fonthill Rotary club—thought that it would take five years to raise the entire amount, but ended up making it in just two.

“We were shocked by how much money we raised,” said William Grant, a Grade 8 student in the group.

“We raised most of it through our Wigg Winter Classic hockey tournament, where we sold hot chocolate and snacks from Tim Hortons, and charged two dollars for an entry.”

During the assembly, A.K. Wigg teacher and Early Act organizer Tim Droppert said that the idea for the hockey tournament came about when thinking of how the school could match a passion to a cause.

“We all know that there’s a real passion for hockey here,” said Droppert. “We’ve used that passion for hockey to do good.”

The 300 or so students of A.K. Wigg sat in neat rows in the gymnasium as Grant and fellow senior Early Act member Emma Jensen introduced Jordan Lipton, from Me To We, the organization through which A.K. Wigg sponsored the classroom. It had taken Lipton four hours to drive to Pelham from Toronto during the snow squalls, but her enthusiasm wasn’t diminished by the travel.

“I’m so so excited to be here,” she said. “At Me To We we’re all about trying to making doing good doable, and it’s super-cool to see what you’ve been able to do.”

She pointed to the screen behind her, on which photos of Haiti were projected.

“Do you know what happened in Haiti in 2010?” she asked. Someone in the crowd told her.

“That’s right, an earthquake,” she said. “The earthquake hurt a lot of people and damaged a lot of buildings. Forty thousand schools were broken down after it happened.”

Lipton moved on to Manac, the small village in Haiti where the $10,000 raised by A.K. had gone.

“This is the most isolated community that Me To We has ever worked with,” she said. “Not just in Haiti, but anywhere else in the world. There are no roads there—imagine that! Teachers have to walk for three hours to get to it, and the path is only wide enough for one donkey. To outsiders, it feels like the middle of nowhere. But it’s not. It’s Manac.”

Manac is so remote that it cannot be searched on Google Maps. Lipton showed the students a picture of what the village’s school looked liked before Me To We had helped to build a new one.

She made specific mention of the tin roof and the noise any rain would make upon it. She also showed a picture of the interior, a single room with walls made of crumbling field stone and a rocky floor.

“This is two classrooms with just a little divider between the kids,” she said. “What are some of the challenges that could come from this?”

“Crowded,” said one student.

“Bigger kids might bully the littler ones,” said another.

“Can’t learn,” said another bluntly.

“That’s right,” said Lipton. “I’m just looking at all the pebbles on the ground and can already tell that you’d be playing with them within five minutes,” she joked to the primary grades at the front of the gym, who were impressively attentive but nevertheless fidgety.

“Now let’s see at what the new school looks like.”

She flipped the slide to show a brightly painted new building.

“There are classrooms A, B, C—and the one that you’ve sponsored, classroom D. We’re all so so thankful that you helped this community get that new school,” she said.

Before the assembly, Grant and Jensen talked about how much they’d learned by working on the fundraising project.

“Other than the hockey tournament, we also visited businesses in small groups to ask for donations,” said Grant. “Some of them said yes, and some of them said no. It was very interesting—I don’t have asking-for-money skills.”

But despite Grant’s humbleness, Fonthill Rotary President Paul Snack called the A.K. Wigg group incredible.

“We did not do a whole heck of a lot here,” said Snack. “These kids are amazing.We need them to join our group.”

Snack explained that the Rotary club sponsors youth charity groups at a number of different levels. Early Act, like the group at A.K. Wigg, is for elementary students, while Interact is for high schools.

“Then there’s Rotaract, for college and university kids up to age thirty,” said Snack. “So we have students graduate from Early Act to Interact to Rotaract.”

Snack also praised A.K. Wigg Early Act’s future plans.

“They want to take on a water project. I’m not sure where, but they’re going to do a great job fundraising for it.”

At the end of the assembly, Lipton amped-up the crowd for this next initiative.

“Water touches everything,” she said. “What happens if you don’t drink it?”

“You die,” called out a student.

“A.K. Wigg, you get straight to the point,” said Lipton, smiling. “I like it.”

“Water is the most important thing for a community, especially for women and girls, because they’re often the ones who spend hours each day carrying heavy jugs of water back from a source. And if they’re out carrying water, then they can’t be in school.”

Lipton said that she had wanted to bring a water-cooler jug to the school to show just how heavy it is, but that she couldn’t carry it on her own. She put on the screen the various amounts needed to provided clean water for parts of a village.

“Manac already has clean water, so we’ll find another community for you to help,” said Lipton. “Do you think you can do that?”

The school—and especially the younger students in front—screamed in the affirmative. As Lipton wrapped up her presentation, another teacher carried over a water cooler jug to show students just how much water some have to carry for hours.

Droppert pointed to a kindergartener in the front row. “Come and try and pick this up,” he said.

The boy came forward, put his hands around the neck of the jug, struggled for a minute, and then sat down again.

Droppert pointed to another boy, a few rows back and a few years older.

“Max, you come try and pick this up,” he said.

The boy came forward and picked the jug up a few inches off the ground. “Now walk to the door,” said Droppert. The students watched attentively as Max walked smoothly over to the side of the gym.

“Now walk all the way home,” said Droppert.

“Okay!” said Max, smiling and moving out into the hall.

“No, no,” said Droppert. “I’m just kidding. Come back.”

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