Mental wellness is rated high at an elementary school in Red Deer, and this Christmas, students are supporting a charity that supports mental health of veterans.
About 21 Grade 4 and 5 students have been selling candygrams this holiday season at Fairview Elementary School.
Students conduct Christmas service projects every year and this year they’ve chosen to donate to Wounded Warriors of Canada – an organization that supports the mental health needs of injured veterans, first responders and their families.
School principal Kim Walker explained students are given the choice of three charities, encouraging “giving back” conversations in a classroom setting. Students then pick a charity of their choice.
The peacekeeping conversations have been ongoing at the school, starting earlier in the school year, for Remembrance Day. In November, students sent letters to Canadian soldiers in Lebanon, letting them know, they’re thinking about those who serve the country.
Helping the veterans and first responders is an important service project for the school, that has 101 students whose first language is not English, out of the 222 student population.
One such Grade 4 student is Maksym Slobodian, from Ukraine, who said the “project is a good thing.”
“It makes them happier,” he said.
Julianna MacDonald, a Grade 5 student, said the project gives money to people who can use it in a good way.
The newcomer students often experience war and violence in their home countries before coming to Canada, Walker said.
“If you come to our (school) assembly you will see 49 home languages,” Walker said.
“When (newcomer) children arrive, they are just learning English, and within a couple years you will hear their narrative and they’ll share what they’ve experienced across the world.”
The project teaches students empathy and why service is important. It also shows them that not everyone is home with their families during Christmas, the principal said.
“It shows them Christmas is a great time to think about others, who are away from their families and that circumstances around the world are different.”
Mental health and wellness is rated high within the Red Deer Public School division, and students are provided with listening ears, so they can speak frankly about what they feel, for example, when they feel angry.
And the project helps them see everyone in the world experiences mental health challenges, and how students can make a difference for those who are experiencing these challenges during the holiday season.
“It’s to honour those individuals who have gone on peacekeeping journeys across the world and so what happens quite often when they come home is they have PTSD and other mental health challenges,” Walker said.
Christmas projects at the school see about $200 to $400 raised, but what students learn in the process becomes a life lesson, the principal explained.