I really admire those people who are able to find a way to use their passion to not only satisfy their own internal ambitions but to change the lives of others…forever. As a Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni, I was browsing through our alumni magazine a few months back and came across an organization that sparked my interest. Known as Write to Give (clever play on words no?), this project was started by Amy McLaren of Ontario, Canada who founded World Teacher Aid, a Canadian charity committed to improving education throughout the developing world. Since 2009, Write to Give has since grown to become internationally recognized, and continues to bring students from all over the world together by promoting literacy for a well deserved cause. The organization used funds raised to complete their first school this past May in Kenya!
Write to Give is a project that gives school children the opportunity to work together with their class to write various components of a story based on a predetermined theme or topic (there were non-fiction and fiction themes that classes could choose from). Once one part of the story is completed, the next class would complete the next section and so on. Usually 4-5 classes are involved in one book, including a class who completes the illustrations too! The exciting part for participating students is they won’t be able to read the full story until the final books are published. This keeps the students excited about the arrival of the books once they have submitted their part.
The published books are then sold to communities around the world for $15 CAD each and the money raised has gone to support the building of schools in rural Kenya. Students in developed countries are given the opportunity to share their learning and their work with thousands of people while students in the under-developed nations can reap the benefits of literacy and accessible education close to home. Students from all over the world including Hong Kong, India, the United States and Canada have participated in this worthy cause thus far.
After learning more deeply about what Write to Give does, I quickly introduced the idea of participation in this project to my Grade 6 class at Little Rouge Public School. Being an advocate of social justice and exposing young people to global issues early on, I felt this was a worthwhile, and ‘curriculum’ relevant project that we could all learn from. Our completed project was a success and I can proudly say that my students really enjoyed both the process and the final product! They frequently express their excitement over the amazing experience and I hope this will ignite their thirst for change.
This year, Write to Give was able to raise over $8000 for their initiatives in Kenya, and here is a video of the school children who are celebrating the opening of the Write to Give school in Rongai, Kenya.
embedded by Embedded Video
After completing the project with Little Rouge Public School, I connected again with Amy to speak more directly about Write to Give and hopefully it will inspire our readers to think outside the box and see how passion can become change.
Vidafine: How did you start World Teacher Aid and consequently Write to Give?
AM: Ever since I was little, I have loved to travel. I have been fortunate to have had the experience of travelling to over 35 countries, where I have volunteered in orphanages, Refugee Camps and taught English. It was during some of my travel experiences that I realized the need to help children in Developing counties receive an education. One Christmas I decided that I wanted to raise some money for a small school in El Salvador. With my husband’s help, we managed to raise $140 000 in a few short hours. We were ecstatic, and even more excited to share this with the school in El Salvador. That Christmas we ventured down to El Salvador, where we bought the school a photocopier, school supplies, renovated some classrooms as well as visited some orphanages along the way, where we were able to support 63 girls to attend school that year. It is amazing to see how far you can stretch a dollar in Developing Countries!
After coming back from that trip, I realized that I wanted to dive into the Charity world, and start my own non-profit. Thus the paper work began and two years later, we became an official Canadian Charity. We still continue to raise money online today and have been on many trips to Africa and Central America since.
Write To Give…
As a teacher I wanted to create something for the children in the classroom that linked giving and learning about other cultures and the curriculum. After many treat days, candy fundraisers and hat days, I finally came up with the concept of Write To Give. Thanks to good friends, I managed to complete our first book in a few short weeks just before the Christmas holiday. It was such a success with students, parents and teachers that I was asked if I was doing it again and the rest is history : )
Vidafine: Where did you get this inspiration from?
AM: I enjoy reading many books on social change, so I guess you could say I have been inspired by many authors. I am also inspired by Free The Children and think what they are doing is amazing. I feel they have done an incredible job, working with older students. I hope to create the same excitement for our younger students around the concept of Write To Give.
Vidafine: Why did you choose this avenue to make a change in the world? What aspect of this whole thing has been the most difficult for you?
AM: I chose this because it links up my love for travelling, learning new cultures and helping others. I have had a few hurdles along the way, one being patiently waiting for our charitable status. That took forever.
Another hurdle would be managing working full time and the growing charity. Sometimes it is hard to get it all in.
Vidafine: Where do you foresee your projects heading in the next 5 years?
AM: In the next five years, I believe our program will improve by having even more features to our online Members/Teachers Area for the Program. I hope that we continue to get international involvement and hope that we have a spot on a book shelf in Chapters with some Write To Give books for the greater community to enjoy!
Vidafine: Any encouraging words you want to share with others looking to do something similar?
AM: Follow your dreams, if you can dream or believe it then you can do it : )
Thank you so much Amy for introducing me to this amazing project, perhaps I will visit the school one day. I can’t wait to continue sharing the initiative with other teachers and students. I wish you the utmost success ahead! Keep us posted!