May 4, 2012 4:06 pm
Updated: March 24, 2013 10:41 am

Everyday Hero: Serena Bufalino


A Toronto educator has given her students a lesson no textbook could, with priceless results that are changing the lives of people all the way over in Haiti.

Serena Bufalino, a teacher at Thisteltown Regional Centre, mentors some of the city’s most at-risk children. Their challenges vary, from emotional and behavioural difficulties to learning disabilities. Their trauma is so severe they can’t function in a regular school setting.

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“Well, for most of the kids…most of society has turned them away… And in this classroom, they’re accepted. They’re accepted no matter what or who they are,” says Bufalino, better known at school as Miss B.

One girl named Yolanda Forbes, arrived at the school last year so burdened and withdrawn, she would often fall silent, sometimes for days on end.

But she says Miss B’s patience and quiet encouragement saved her.

“She actually saves people’s lives from dangers,” says Yolanda, now a former student.

“And she helps us to understand that people around the world don’t have people to help them like we do.”

Miss B has a message she tries to instill into her students: “Something local, something global.”  Helping yourself means helping others, and that giving back is important.

She told her students about Haiti and its nearly one million orphans, many of who have no school or support in their lives. “And no one’s helping them, except for people like us,” she reminded her class.

“And the kids could not believe that there were kids in this world who were a) suffering more than they were, and b) that wanted to go to school but didn’t have a building to go to – or they couldn’t wrap their head around that,” Miss B recalls.

It could be why these kids, who are experiencing their own hardships, felt compelled to help the orphans of Haiti.

“Yolanda and Jackie and Patrick said: ‘Well, Miss B, we need to build them a school,'” the teacher recalls.

Bufalino’s students, already busy volunteering at soup kitchens and food banks, took the time to hold fundraisers – everything from selling samosas, to washing cars and screening movies – for Haiti’s less fortunate, living up to Miss B’s motto: “Something local, something global.”

In just a few months, the class raised $20,000. It was enough to build a full, three-storey school.

Miss B then brought the funds on a remarkable journey into the dusty mountains above Port-au-Prince to the town of Canaan. It’s home to thousands of refugees still suffering after the massive 2010 earthquake.  They don’t have running water or electricity.

However, there is one major difference now.  A temporary school is up and running, with 53 students already in uniform.  The permanent school for 250 is growing from its foundations, all thanks to some kind Canadian kids and Miss B.

Back in Toronto, another fundraiser was held, but this one was to honour Miss B’s students, some of whom might not be alive if it weren’t for their teacher.

“They’ve moved outside the classroom into the community, and now they’ve moved into the world. It makes me want to cry,” says Toronto District School Board vice-president Marlene Steele.

For inspiring great things and seeing the potential in everyone, Serena Bufalino is this week’s Global National Everyday Hero.

With files from Global National’s Dawna Friesen and Kieron O’Dea

To nominate your Everyday Hero, e-mail  Tell us your Everyday Hero’s name, where he or she lives, and why he or she should be profiled.

© 2012 Shaw Media

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