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Local school helps Afghan women build a future

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From left to right: Patricia Burgoyne, an assistant superintendent at Louis Riel School Division; student Nikki Yakubowski; student Robin Mann, Lois Edwards, co-chair of the Manitoba Chapter of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan; and teacher Rob Hrabluk at a recent cheque presentation at Island Lakes Community School. Staff and students organized a gala event earlier this year and raised more than $1,000 for the organization.

SIMON FULLER Enlarge Image

From left to right: Patricia Burgoyne, an assistant superintendent at Louis Riel School Division; student Nikki Yakubowski; student Robin Mann, Lois Edwards, co-chair of the Manitoba Chapter of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan; and teacher Rob Hrabluk at a recent cheque presentation at Island Lakes Community School. Staff and students organized a gala event earlier this year and raised more than $1,000 for the organization. Photo Store

Staff and students at Island Lakes Community School have played their part in helping women and their families in a ravaged nation half a world away.

At the end of the last school year, the school community held its annual gala — and also produced a five-track album — in support of the Manitoba Chapter of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan). In the end, the school raided $1,293.40 for the cause.

CW4WAfghan is a member-based, non-profit organization founded in 1996 with 13 volunteer chapters across Canada. Its goal is to raise awareness among Canadians of the plight of women in Afghanistan from a human rights perspective and fundraise to advance education and educational opportunities for Afghan women and their families.

"I was totally amazed when their teacher, Rob Hrabluk, called me to see if someone could come and talk to the students, saying that Grade 6 to 8 students had chosen our organization to be the recipient of their yearly gala," said Lois Edwards, co-chair of the organization’s local chapter.  

"These kids worked very hard on this project in preparation for the gala. For example, they did Internet research, made posters and held bake sales. One afternoon, I spoke to 180 students and was extremely impressed with what Rob had done with the students and with the students themselves for their knowledge of Afghanistan."

"They had done their research about how much it would cost for food or library books in Afghanistan. And they put up posters in the classrooms and the hallways. They even made a sandwich board to advertise the event. I was amazed and impressed," added Edwards, who lives in River Heights.

To prepare for the event, Grade 8 student Nikki Yakubowski said the students divided up into groups and chose different fundraisers. Her group sold freezies during lunch hours.

"It was a great experience to learn about how women get treated in Afghanistan. It was interesting to learn about the different lifestyles and how women get treated there compared to us," Yakubowski said.

Grade 8 student Robin Mann, who was involved in auditioning and selecting entertainment acts for the gala, said he was inspired by Deborah Ellis’ 2001 children’s novel titled The Breadwinner, which features an 11-year-old protagonist who is forced to be the breadwinner for her family in wartorn, Taliban-era Afghanistan.

"I was surprised how the girls weren’t allowed to go to school and I was shocked about that," Mann said.

Hrabluk, a language arts and music teacher at the school, said the fundraiser began to build momentum when he introduced The Breadwinner into the classroom in the first term of the school year and he was proud to collaborate with the students to produce a five-track CD called In Loving Memory.

"The project definitely helped build awareness of what’s going on in the world and it gave the students a chance to learn and pass this knowledge on to their parents," said Hrabluk, who lives in North Kildonan.

"There’s a great spirit and atmosphere and awareness of global issues at the school. And, of course, it was fun, too. If we can make it fun to help these causes, it helps foster a hands-on, face-to-face approach."

To learn more about CW4WAfghan, visit www.cw4wafghan.ca To check out In Loving Memory, go to iTunes and search for Robert Hrabluk.

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