South Nelson Elementary reaches out to their “street friends”
Ryall and Jameel.
One of them is a newly hired Nelson Street Outreach worker, and the other is a six-year-old South Nelson student who fled Syria with his family. Last week the pair came together as part of South Nelson Elementary’s sock drive.
During an assembly attended by the entire school last Thursday, students presented care packages with socks and toiletries for their “street friends” as part of an educational initiative to teach compassion and empathy for the vulnerable in our community.
And when it came time to hand over the goods to outreach worker Ryall Giuliano, as well as representatives from the Salvation Army, kindergartener Jameel Msatat (see related story on page 1) personally handed him a stuff sock full of goodies.
“South Nelson has done an amazing job of putting together these care packages for the homeless folks in our community. They also did some education pieces in their classrooms, and it’s really awesome to see the teachers are supportive of helping the kids understand we’re an inclusive community,” Giuliano told the Star.
“There are all different kind of folks in our community, and we’ve got to make sure everyone has at least dry feet, and they’re shown support.”
He was moved to hear the students refer to the vulnerable as their “street friends”.
“That’s a term they’re using here that I really like. The kids seem to really understand that there are folks in need in Nelson and we all need to work together to support them.”
And Principal Kim Jones was visibly moved by the proceedings, especially Jameel’s involvement.
“That moment was amazing. I’m tearing up reflecting on that, it was so powerful. There are many families in Nelson who struggle and our message to kids in Nelson is many of us struggle and it’s important to help each other out,” she said.
The initiative falls in line nicely with their motto: “South Nelson grows great kids.”
Each letter in the word “GROWS” represents one aspect of their school mission, and in this case it was the “O” that led them to explore their “open minds and hearts.”
“We started out the month being grateful for what we do have in our lives, with an understanding that not everybody enjoys some of the things we take for granted,” she said.
“Two of our classes then came up with this idea to demonstrate our open hearts and minds by reaching out to other people in the community and supporting them.”
The project was born after local pastor John Thwaites spoke to the kids about compassion.
“He gave examples of some of the circumstances that could lead to a person being on the streets, in an age-appropriate manner the children could understand, and then we had a kick-off assembly where the students shared the stories they’d learned.”
Then the students got to work, ultimately collecting over 277 pairs of socks and stuffing them full. Hearing Giuliano speak about the difference these donations will make to the people he works with was a learning moment for the kids.
“Hearing what a difference a warm pair of socks, or a toothbrush, can make for our street friends was very powerful for our students. As a principal, I simply couldn’t be prouder.”