Bialik Hebrew Day School in Toronto was one of a handful of schools recognized last week for an innovative international fundraising campaign that the school launched last year.
The school was honoured at WE Day, a celebrity-studded event held Sept. 28 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto for schools that participated in local and overseas charity projects. It is sponsored by the non-profit organization WE Charity, formerly known as Free the Children, that was started by Marc and Craig Kielburger.
Bialik is believed to be the first Jewish day school that’s been recognized at a We Day event, said Shoshana Taitz, director of the school’s general studies.
The project began last year, after Bialik students attending the annual WE Day event were inspired by a piece of Lego they found in their gift bags. They decided to raise funds to build a school in Haiti, with the goal of collecting $10,000, but ended up raising $17,000.
The campaign, called Bialik Building for Change, is one of four tzedakah projects the school undertakes annually, for local, Israeli and international causes. Every campaign also has an educational component, Taitz said.
“We needed to teach tzedakah in a meaningful way. We wanted students to go home and teach their parents and families about the importance of educating others,” Taitz said. “And we want them to appreciate how lucky they were to have an education, as well.”
Students in grades 7 and 8 visited every classroom to explain how education can stop the cycle of poverty in Haiti, ran activities for students and sent them home with age-appropriate fact sheets.
Lego already was being used in the school’s math and science curricula and in its robotics program, so it was a natural fit for a school-wide campaign.
Students went home with a Lego pledge sheet, with prices listed for bricks, columns and doors. Each class built a model classroom and at the end of the project, the Lego classrooms were combined at Bialik to create a model of a complete school.
The fundraising campaign was spearheaded by members of Bialik’s student Free the Children Club, which is dedicated to bringing awareness of global issues into the school, Taitz said.
The school has not decided what this year’s campaign will entail, but members of the club who attended last week’s WE Day event were hoping to find inspiration again, Taitz said.