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Ms. Misfeldt’s students learn practical kindness

By Lorraine Graves

Published 2:30 PDT, Wed June 26, 2019

During her first year teaching the Citizenship Leadership Class at MacNeill Secondary, Catriona Misfeldt decided to let the students choose their last term project.

During her first year teaching the Citizenship Leadership Class at MacNeill Secondary, Catriona Misfeldt decided to let the students choose their last term project.

“For the first and second terms we did in-school activities,” she says.

For the third term, the group of Grade 10 to 12 students planned a community service project. But before the students were ready to help, they needed to learn how to help and what would really help.

One student said, “When we started doing this for the community, I thought ‘Wow this is a lot of work’ but I have learned anyone can do it.”

Using what is known as the Design Thinking Process (providing a solution-based approach to solving problems), Misfeldt says giving has more impact because “we develop insights and empathy by observing, interviewing and surveying people to develop solutions to problems.”

It means they listen to those affected to learn what they really need, and in the process the students develop empathy.

During that stage, the MacNeill students benefitted from the wisdom of people both touched by homelessness and those helping to alleviate its affects.

Morgan Meloche, from The Turning Point Society, David Burgess, from The Salvation Army, Hugh Freiberg, a community outreach work from St. Albans, and two community members with lived experiences were the main resource people.

“Both Adina Edwards (manager of Richmond’s new modular housing project) and De Whalen (chair of the Richmond's Poverty Response Committee) were very responsive and supportive of the students' requests and questions,” Misfeldt says.

Through this process, the class discovered the realities of homelessness in Richmond and what a diverse group this represents.

One student group chose to provide menstrual supplies for homeless women. They learned that when living without a home, on next to no income, there can be no room in the budget to buy these necessities.

Another group chose to do a web-based project, inspired by Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York. They will post images and stories of those touched by homelessness in Richmond. See Richmondsentinel.ca for links.

Two of the groups in the class merged to find donations of supplies from a local grocer.

With Dennis So, from Pepper Lunch’s great support and Superstore’s donation, they whipped up creations in the kitchen and then hold bake sales during school lunch hours. The $236.25 raised will go to the Salvation Army’s Richmond House. 

As well, two different groups are each making a video aimed at developing empathy for people living with housing insecurity or homelessness. The target audience for one video project, a five-minute documentary, is youth who use social media while the other video on supportive housing for the homeless will be distributed to agencies to encourage a greater understanding of the needs and situations faced by those living on Richmond’s streets and in our vacant lots.

The last stage of Misfeldt’s process means the students will revisit their projects to see if the goals were met and if the people they were trying to help truly received what they needed.

One of Ms. Misfeldt’s students said, “One of the most important things I have learned is anyone can make a difference.”

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