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Jane Enkin

Brock Corydon School and Free the Children

by Jane Enkin, posted July 12, 2012

Ira Udow retired from his position as principal of Brock Corydon School this June. Among many accomplishments, Mr. Udow has developed Brock Corydon as a UNESCO School.  UNESCO schools work to establish a culture of peace,and promote democracy, human rights, solidarity and mutual understanding through curricular and extra-curricular projects related to world concerns and the role of the United Nations ,human rights, democracy  ,intercultural learning  and environmental issues  

Representatives of FreeThe Children, Jennifer McDougal and Christopher Tse, came to inspirethe Brock Corydon kids and give leadership training to a group of dedicate UNESCO volunteers this past June.

Free the Children is built on the work of Craig Kielberger, who began as a 12 year old todraw world-wide attention to the plight of child labourers, and nowcontinues to lead efforts to make concrete, sustainable change incommunities.  He himself was first moved by the story of Iqbal Misah,a  child labourer turned young activist in South Asia.

At the heart of events like We Day, which brought together thousands of Winnipeg studentsfor a day of celebrity speeches and music, and smaller, more focusedefforts like the Brock Corydon group's leadership training, is themessage that each individual has the power to contribute to change inthe lives of others. 

Interspersed through the program were opportunities for the children to clap, cheer, standup to identify with various causes, and begin to feel energized,proud and happy about themselves and their potential.

Chris and Jennie talked about their own backgrounds which led them to work with Free theChildren, with emphasis on humbling experiences that helped themlearn.  Jennie joined a university group sleeping outdoors in March as “Five Days for the Homeless.”  The goal was to raise money andawareness in her city.  But homeless people themselves approached thestudents with concerns.  The students, they said, still had homes toreturn to – they couldn't actually represent the reality of thelives of the homeless.  Missing was the emotional element of lifewithout security.  What emerged was a dialogue and then acollaboration between university students and homeless people,sharing stories, friendship and support.

Chris, a national champion in slam poetry, presented a story from one of his several volunteer trips out of Canada.

... my lesson

Was taught to me by achild’s laugh

Her name was Lorena

I met her in Mexico

Skin the colour ofcampfire marshmallow and hair so black you could paint the night with it

I noticed her rightaway

When she laughed

Because to say it waslike magical wind chimes being played by unicorns and kittens?

Well, that would havebeen an understatement and her laugh?

It made me believe inGod again

And I hope to God that laugh lasts

Because kids grow up sofast when they’re trying to get past age five,

When they’re the onlyones keeping themselves alive...

A slide show helped theBrock Corydon students learn about Free the Children's programs overseas.  Networks of support are created.  Volunteers help to builda school in a village.  Girls don't attend, because it's their task to walk long distances to carry water.  So the next step is topartner with the village to build a safe water system. Local health education and health care follow.  Finally, new income projects help adults earn enough that they can afford to keep their children in school and out of the work force. These efforts  interweave to add up to sustainable development – ultimately to end the need for groupslike Free the Children to offer support.

In afternoo nworkshops, a smaller group of volunteers played team building gamesand talked through their action plan.  Under Ira Udow's guidance, the Brock Corydon group has chosen to focus not on fund-raising but onraising awareness of issues of poverty both in Winnipeg and overseas. The students really impressed me. I enjoyed hearing each child come up with a secret superpower.    Then I marvelled as they reflected ona challenging problem-solving game. They talked about shifting from spontaneous, quick responses to considered strategies, about the way that communication and the sharing of information increased their efficiency, and how taking on individual responsibility also increased efficiency as they worked together.

To learn more about Free the Children, see

Me To We Take Action Academy, a leadership camp, will be held at Balmoral Hall in Winnipegfrom July 22 to July 28.  Spaces are still available at the Winnipeg camp and at several other North American locations.  For information,see

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