Wes Hewitt, left, executive director for the Port Alberni Shelter Society, and John Douglas, special projects coordinator, accept more than two dozen care packages from members of the ADSS leadership classes, May 22 at ADSS. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Port Alberni high school leadership class gives lesson in compassion

ADSS class donates care packages to the Port Alberni Shelter Society

A discussion among the Grade 9 leadership class at Alberni District Secondary School has turned into a project that will bring comfort to some of the city’s homeless people this summer.

Teacher Mike Roberts was telling the class about encountering a man near the bottle depot on Fourth Avenue who asked him for money for coffee and shoelaces. “We got to talking about homelessness in the Valley and what happened with me,” he said.

The students spoke with Terry Deakin, AVCSI coordinator and one of the leaders of the homeless count this year, and they watched a documentary about homelessness in Victoria.

“It just became a theme of our class,” Roberts said.

The Grade 9 or junior leadership class typically doesn’t plan projects, he added. “The junior leadership class is learning the value of teamwork and putting together projects. They don’t usually do the same thing that the senior class does.”

This class, however, was motivated to act. They had a class conversation on the problems facing people in the Alberni Valley and asked what they could do to help. They decided they could put together care packages for those in need.

The backpacks—about two dozen—included personal and oral hygiene items for both men and women, soap, socks, shoes, some clothing, toques, gloves, first aid items and hand wipes, toilet paper and Kleenex, some food and a water bottle. Students came up with a list of items they thought should go in the care packages, and set about collecting what they needed. “They raised money with a bake sale to buy what we couldn’t find on our own,” Roberts said.

Students also included a personal note with each care package.

“They’re proud that they’re now able to donate these to the shelter society,” he said.

Staff from the shelter society came to the classroom to pick up the backpacks and to thank the students.

“It’s a huge educational component for the youth of the community to learn about a sector in our society that has incredible challenges,” said John Douglas, special projects coordinator and community advocate with the Port Alberni Shelter Society. “Challenges to do with poverty, addictions and mental health issues.

“It’s an opportunity for us to come in and discuss the situation we have throughout the country and Port Alberni in particular, answer their questions and encourage their enthusiasm to help out,” he said.

Shelter society executive director Wes Hewitt appreciated the students’ compassion. “Things like this are very positive in the community,” he said while visiting the leadership class. “It’s an opportunity for youth to learn a bit of empathy and community involvement. Homelessness, mental health and substance use are part of our community no matter what a person wants to think.”

editor@albernivalleynews.com

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