Killarney secondary school’s student street squad marks a decade Dec. 5 of annual trips to the Downtown Eastside to deliver holiday care packages.
The street squad involves about 60 Grade 8 to 12 students who participate in various activities that benefit the school and community throughout the year. The care package project started 10 years ago when students raised money to buy 250 tins of Danish shortbread to hand out in the Downtown Eastside.
“This was something I thought would be a good project for my students because it teaches them not only about helping in the community, but helping people in need,” explained Joanne Windsor, the club’s teacher sponsor.
During the inaugural event, Windsor said students asked residents what kind of items they could use. “Most of them told us they did have groups that came down and brought food, but they would like to have toiletries, so the next year we switched over to toiletries,” she said.
Now, students put together 500 packages containing items including soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, socks, scarves, and food items such as granola bars, Kraft dinner and individual cereal boxes.
In recent years, the street squad also started providing recipients with a bag lunch containing a sandwich made by students, a juice box, cookies and a piece of fruit. Students will also distribute items from clothing drives.
Windsor is particularly pleased that Killarney graduates started clubs at UBC and SFU this year, which helped raise funds and gathered products for the care packages. These groups include HOMES (Homeless Outreach Movement to Educate and Support) association at UBC, and MAD for CHANGE at SFU.
“They had clothing and blanket drives and helped increase what we give out,” Windsor said. “As a matter of fact, we actually had to rent a cube van this year to help us take stuff down.”
A handful of Killarney street squad participants, as well as a few representatives from the university clubs, are delivering the goods Wednesday morning.
Windsor has a system in which students have to earn the right to take part in the care package delivery. “They don’t just get to go down — the more work they do [fundraising], the better the chances are that they get to experience this,” she said. “So they do a lot of work to get here and, as I said, I want them to understand it’s a privilege to go down there, it’s not just something they have a right to do.”
Windsor said the project’s goals are for students to appreciate what they have and to draw attention to the needy in the Downtown Eastside.
Aliana Carlos, co-chair of the street squad, has been involved in the club since Grade 8. She made the trip to the Downtown Eastside last year. “It was busy, but it was such a good experience — working hard to give these people essentials they need. It made me more grateful for what I have. It made me appreciate my life more,” she said.
“We just want to help the less fortunate in our city and try to raise awareness about the increasing population of homeless people.”