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Maritime chainsaw artist creates unique ‘buddy bench’ to help lonely kids

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WATCH: Maritime chainsaw artist Rob Milner is working with a Nova Scotia elementary school to create a unique "buddy bench". The concept is simple: to help lonely kids find a buddy by taking a seat. Natasha Pace reports. – Oct 23, 2017

Over the past five years, Rob Milner has created hundreds of pieces of beautiful artwork with his chainsaw using everything from ice to stone, metal and even wood.

This week, Milner is working on a very special project at Valley Elementary School in Valley, N.S. It’s called a buddy bench.

“The concept I’ve heard about before but I’ve never been approached to do it, so I was quite excited to undertake something like this,” he said.

WATCH: Artist overcomes the odds and finds success in chainsaw carving

The concept for the bench is simple: help kids who are lonely find a buddy.

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When a child takes a seat on the bench, it alerts both staff at the school and fellow students that a buddy is needed.

“A buddy bench is when if someone needs a friend, they can just go and sit on it and then someone can come over to the bench and ask to play with them,” said Tessa Johnson, a Grade 4 student at the school.

READ: ‘It creates relationships’: buddy benches help connect Edmonton students with new friends

The elementary school has been considering the idea of installing a buddy bench for some time and are excited to finally see it happening.

Instead of purchasing a pre-made bench, Valley Elementary wanted to do something special and decided to have Milner craft a unique bench that incorporates some of the lessons that students are learning inside the classroom.

“We’re learning about the seven sacred teachings,” said teacher Kimberly Aarts. “October is Mi’kmaq Cultural Awareness month, so we’re focused on First Nations and especially Mi’kmaq people because we’re so close to Millbrook and…that is our culture.”

The bench features a bear and an eagle, which are two of the seven animals that represent the sacred teachings.

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“The bear represents courage, so you have courage to ask them to go play with you,” said Grade 4 student Ryan Vohra. “The eagle represents love for your friendship with them.”

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‘A beautiful thing’: Nova Scotia teacher makes medicine pouches for Indigenous grads – Jun 19, 2017

Students took turns watching Milner carefully carve the animals for the bench on Monday.

Once the outline of the eagle and the bear were complete, Milner took a torch to the wood pieces, lighting them on fire. It’s a process he says softens the wood and creates a rich colour.

“The students are very, very keen to see this happening and they always enjoy something they can see hands on and they can see the start and the end of it,” said principal Kimberly Wall.

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“The first thing this morning they saw just the blocks of wood here and they’ve been out visiting and seeing the carving and now the torching is happening. They’ve been really, really interested.”

When the 500-pound bench is complete, it will be permanently placed in the playground at the elementary school.

The bench will be sealed next week before it is officially placed in the yard. Rob Milner

Milner has a simple but powerful hope for his first buddy bench.

“Maybe one kid gets help. If they’re screaming for help, they’ll get it and not feel left out and get the chance to feel a part of something,” he said.

 

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