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Making a difference for kids in Kenya

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(Left to right) Former Maples student Kristina Da Costa, Maples guidance counsellor Annette Greene and Maples Grade 12 student Emilee Crozier were recognized by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation for their involvement in the Maples Kenya Connection Project.COMMUNITY NEWS)

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(Left to right) Former Maples student Kristina Da Costa, Maples guidance counsellor Annette Greene and Maples Grade 12 student Emilee Crozier were recognized by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation for their involvement in the Maples Kenya Connection Project.COMMUNITY NEWS) Photo Store

Maples Collegiate is making a difference.

The school was one of eight groups of Manitobans recognized with a profile video by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation (MCIC) during International Development Week for contributions to international development and social justice issues.

International Development Week, recognized Feb. 2 to 8, is a Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada initiative, with this year’s theme being We are Making a Difference.

The school earned the initiative’s notice through its Maples Kenya Connection Project.

In 2009, a group of Maples students came together with the goal of doing good, but weren’t sure what good to do or where to do it. To get the students’ brains storming, the school brought in some guest speakers.

"One visitor specifically changed our lives," said Maples guidance counsellor Annette Greene. "Cat Ross started a charity called the Kenya Initiative for Development and Sustainability, or KIDS, and Cat came to talk to us about what she does and my kids were just enthralled."

"Immediately after her speech, they all conglomerated around her and asked her ‘What can we do to help?’ At that point the students already had the idea that they wanted to go somewhere, so we said ‘Can we go to Kenya? Can we actually see your projects?’ and that’s how the Maples Kenya Connection Project was born."

Through corporate donations, a grant from MCIC and fundraising efforts like community dinners, talent shows and bottle drives, the students were able to raise approximately $58,000 for their July 2013 trip to Kenya, $25,000 of which went to KIDS efforts like the Mama Tunza Children’s Centre.

"Mama Tunza was so much fun," said Emilee Crozier, a Grade 12 student at Maples. "It’s an orphanage. I think of orphanages being all really sad children, but they were honestly so happy with the little bit they have. They come up with their own games. They make their own balls and stuff to play with. They make their own jewelry to sell. I bought my mom earrings from them."

In addition to money, the students donated about $10,000 in medical supplies to a Kenyan HIV/AIDS clinic. They also donated their time and sweat, helping to build a school. And in one instance, the students even coughed up their own money to help their Kenyan friends.

"We were sitting down for lunch (at Mama Tunza), and we had already been given our package lunches from the hotel we were staying at in Nairobi. Cat Ross was with us, and she heard from a staffer that the kids weren’t going to be having lunch today, because their food had run out," Greene said.

"We all pooled the rest of our money," Crozier said. "We were going to spend it at the airport on trinkets, but that’s not important, so we gave it to them. They went out in the van and brought back a week’s worth of rice."

Crozier said the trip was a life-changing experience.

"I went there crying because I didn’t want to leave Canada, and I left crying because I didn’t want to leave Kenya," Crozier said.

"I’m going to go back. I know that for a fact."

To watch MCIC’s profile video on the Maples Kenya Connection Project, go to mcic.ca/makingadifference-2014

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