North Poplar students help support projects in Kenya

The Abbotsford school is one of 13 in Canada involved in Project Kenya Sister School.

(From left) Brooklyn Gordon

(From left) Brooklyn Gordon

The students had no idea why their teachers had asked them to gather in the dance room at North Poplar Fine Arts School and pull a ticket out of a bag.

Ten per cent of the kids grabbed a yellow ticket and were sent to an area of the room where they were treated to fast food meals, including burgers and donuts.

Another 20 per cent received a green ticket, and were each served a bowl of beans and a glass of water.

The remaining 70 per cent of the students pulled a blue ticket, and were relegated to a garbage-strewn area with buckets of dirty water and soggy taco chips scattered on the floor.

Parents dressed as guards kept the kids in this corner away from the other areas.

The “global banquet,” held in September, was organized by Grade 5 teachers Sheridan Tochkin and Brittney Wallace to illustrate to their students the disparity of wealth in the world.

The experience had a profound effect on many of the children, resulting in the formation of a student committee to assist with a project in Kenya.

The Project Kenya Sister School (PKSS) Club is now encouraging other Abbotsford schools to become involved.

North Poplar is among 13 schools in Canada and one in the U.S. that are involved in PKSS, a Canadian charity that helps Kenyan kids go to school while supporting conservation efforts in the Laikipia region.

The school has been involved in PKSS since 2005, led by Tochkin and Wallace, who have organized fundraisers and even visited Kenya, but this is the first year for the student-led committee.

Treasurer Logan Visco, 10, said he was inspired to help out after the global banquet.

“I felt like I needed to do more than just listen. I needed to get really involved because the people in Kenya and Africa don’t have the things they need to survive. I was hurting,” he said.

The cause was one that club secretary Sydney Lobe, 10, was already involved in. Three years ago, her parents gave her a gift of a stuffed pig and a card saying they were donating money to help a family in Kenya.

The following year, she began collecting bottles, which she turned in for cash. A year later, she had raised $212, which she presented to Tochkin – in a piggy bank she had fashioned out of an empty parmesan cheese can – for PKSS.

Sydney was moved by the teacher’s reaction: “I could see the tears in her eyes and I could feel her heart warming.”

She was more than eager to join the student committee this year.

Kihomi Adhemar, 11, signed on as president, while Brooklyn Gordon, 10, took on the role as vice-president. The pair had also been impacted by the global banquet.

The club, totalling about 20 students, meets weekly to discuss and organize fundraisers to support PKSS funding for school construction/renovation, desks, libraries, dairy cows, water tanks, bio-gas stations, support for families and more.

They also discuss ways to connect with their sister school, Uaso Nyiro Primary School, through means such as letters and videos.

So far this school year, North Poplar has raised $6,500 for PKSS through events including dances and the sales of African art and greeting cards.

Tochkin and Wallace have seen first-hand the difference that PKSS is making in Kenya. Last summer, they visited their sister school and saw how some of North Poplar’s funding is helping there and in the surrounding community.

This included the purchase of 12 tanks that collect and store rainwater, saving villagers a day-long trek to and from the nearest water source.

Tochkin said seeing first-hand the nation’s abject poverty was shocking but impactful, and it’s important to involve children in solutions.

“Children are the future and imparting to them the importance of global awareness and ways to which they can make a difference is now our responsibility, and we feel passionate about this.”

The pair already have another trip booked to Kenya this summer.

For more information about PKSS, visit or contact Tochkin or Wallace at North Poplar Fine Arts School, 604-859-3101. A blog about their 2011 trip can be viewed at

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