The culmination of a five-month Grade 5-6 class project exploring the needs of people who are struggling with poverty and homelessness in Nelson and a search for a way to offer some support to these community members came to an end on June 2 with a big BBQ and grab bag giveaway.

The project began with Kirsten Johnson’s leadership class students deciding that, for this winter’s project, they would put together grab bags for people experiencing homelessness. Supported by Wildflower parent Chloe Sage, the students began the process of learning about the services that are offered to people in Nelson. They wanted to answer questions such as how does someone become homeless and how do people survive having nowhere to go?

The class went on tours of the Stepping Stones shelter and the HUB resources centre. They learned that people can become homeless for so many reasons, like renovictions, losing a job, fleeing violence, becoming injured and dealing with chronic pain. They learned that at the HUB, there is a community of care that includes not only services but also a place to make art.

The research portion of this exploration included creating a survey to ask people who are experiencing homelessness what things they need. The kids learned that just like they love home baking, so do the people who are experiencing homelessness. They also asked for water bottles, flashlights, propane stoves, socks and butter tarts (lots of butter tarts). The kids got to work calling for donations to fill the bags and planned a BBQ where they could feed people with home-cooked food and give the supplies that they gathered out.

The event was funded by a grant from Neighbourhood Small Grants, donations from Valhalla Pure, Kootenay Co-op, Kootenay Bakery, Shoppers Drug Mart, Save-on-Foods, Interior Health and Nelson Street Outreach, and the time of some of the parents to help with the baking and other food making.
The kids were nervous that no one would come, but as word spread, they were giving out meals at the park. After the 50th burger was eaten, they started making sandwiches, and there was a realization that there were a lot of people who were hungry and without homes in our community. The impact of this bridge-building event was felt by everyone who came.

The students shared that, “It was awesome. People are so nice and respectful. It also made me feel so happy.” Another said, “They really are such nice people, and I wish I could have done more. I’d love to do it again,” and, “People who are homeless are just like normal people.”
One parent stated, “That was a very important and humbling experience for our kids. It was really beautifully sad to see how many people showed up.”

One guest of the BBQ shared, “Those kids just looked at me and talked to me like I was a human being like I mattered.”
It was a beautiful and very valuable event for both the young people hosting the event and those who attended. Stigma dies in its tracks with connections like these.

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