A Grade 11 student at Semiahmoo Secondary has used a school project to take action for the less fortunate.
After learning in her social justice class about the struggles and misconceptions of homelessness – one of those being that people are homeless due to their own fault – Alexa Coote said she saw “a perfect opportunity to take action.”
“I became aware of the stigma around being homeless… but after further research I learned there are many uncontrollable factors that leave people without a home,” the 16-year-old said Thursday (Nov. 18).
“I realized there are a lot of misconceptions around it, in a way. Especially with people my age, there’s not a lot of understanding, not a lot of support.
“I decided I wanted to do something to help out.”
Deciding to organize packages of helpful supplies for people accessing the extreme-weather shelter at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Coote connected with Kathy Booth – who is assisting with co-ordination of the shelter’s volunteers this season – to determine what items what would be useful to include.
From there, Coote applied for and received a $475 Simple Generosity Neighbourhood Grant from Envision Financial. The grants are available “to local volunteers, groups, and neighbourhoods that are sharing simple ideas to help our communities thrive,” according to information at envisionfinancial.ca
For Coote, the funds were enough to put together 20 packages for distribution at the shelter. Each contained everything from hand sanitizer and a toothbrush to warm socks, Band-Aids and granola bars.
While the packages have already been donated, and Coote earned an ‘A’ grade on her project, she said she has not closed the book on wanting to help.
Remembering feeling empathetic towards the homeless from a young age, and familiar with the role mental health can play on homelessness – her mom last year started Together-SSWR, to provide free COVID-related therapy and emotional support to youth, adults and seniors on the Semiahmoo Peninsula – Coote hopes to help out at the shelter in the near future, and is considering holding a coat drive to add some warmth ahead of Christmas.
Booth described Coote’s efforts as “inspiring.”
The student said for her, it became more than an assignment.
“I kind of forgot that it was a project,” she said. “I’m just really happy to kind of contribute to my community. It definitely kind of made me really grateful in a way. I realized I was very lucky to have what I have.
“It just made me feel good – something little, but I can still make a difference in a way.”
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