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WE could learn a few things

Manitoba students set example in global consciousness

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That simple volleyball or soccer ball from gym class could help fight poverty for untold thousands of kids -- and get them into school.

Grant Park High School students have had a fair-trade campaign for years, selling fair-trade coffee and tea each morning. But they're leaning on the phys-ed staff to ensure the school's athletic equipment is not manufactured by child labourers.

"We're trying to get the phys-ed department to purchase free-trade balls -- soccer, volleyball, basketball," said Jack Osiowy.

Osiowy said the students believe child labour is being used in Pakistan to manufacture sports equipment.

"Soccer balls are made with 690 stitches," he said, pointing out children's hands are small enough to make those stitches.

Some manufacturers send children back to their homes to do the work when their factories come under scrutiny, student Eva Rodrigues said, citing material the students gathered from Free the Children.

"Those children manufacturing soccer balls rarely have an opportunity to play those sports," she said. "Ten Thousand Villages sells fair-trade soccer balls."

-- -- --

Start getting the shelves ready in the library at St. Theresa Point School. And kids, get ready to read.

Ramona Harper, whose family are members of St. Theresa Point First Nation, is a 10-year-old Grade 5 student at Strathcona School in Winnipeg. She has attended school in St. Theresa Point and is likely moving back by summer.

"While I was over there, I realized that there weren't many books, and they were really easy to read," explained Ramona.

Ramona said the most challenging book for elementary school children was a book about the weather, while there was no fiction book more challenging than Cinderella. "I'm asking people to donate books here," said Ramona.

She said donors can also bring books to Bell Tower every Friday evening. That's the project to keep kids off the street, which begins with the ringing of the bells on Selkirk Avenue at 6 p.m., then moves into the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre for the evening.

"Next week we're going to have a round dance. We talk about keeping the North End safe," Ramona said.

Ramona is looking for any kind of books, including adult novels -- school in St. Theresa Point goes to Grade 12.

And getting them to the community?

"My dad told me that there's only one plane that goes up there, and it's called Perimeter. Or I can take a car and the winter road."

It may come as a surprise to people in St. Theresa Point there's a book drive going on for them in Winnipeg.

"I haven't talked to them yet," said Ramona.

-- -- --

It's somewhat fitting there's a small garden bed planted in the middle of a classroom in a school named Garden City Collegiate.

It's even more fitting because the school is helping to plant the seed in its students with several projects, knowing society will harvest the benefits in the years to come.

Today, 98 students from the high school will attend the second We Day Manitoba at the MTS Centre, a program aimed at inspiring youth to lead positive local and global change.

Almost a dozen of them went to last year's We Day and were so inspired they went to Kenya in April as part of We Day's partner group Free the Children, an international charity devoted to helping young people change the world.

"We helped build their 20th classroom and a library at a school in Kenya," 17-year-old Zachary Hares, a Grade 12 student, said on Monday.

Elsewhere in the school, 16-year-old Stephen Zabudney, a Grade 11 student, has organized the building of more than a dozen raised wooden garden beds to go behind the high school.

"There's a blank area there now," Zabudney said. "Any type of plant can go in there."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 30, 2012 B1

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