What if your child could step into the shoes of a youth in a developing country trying to get an education?
At Global Schoolhouse, an annual event taking place in Kelowna for the last decade, grade 6 students are doing just that.
“Every parent dreams that their kids will do better than they do around the world. Every child has goals of what they want to do in life and most of those require some education,” said event organizer, Joyce Brinkerhoff. “So what we do at the Global Schoolhouse is look at the barriers to education.”
These obstacles include being unable to go to school due to sickness or having to work.
It also includes barriers due to a lack of classroom resources as well as school being interrupted due to war zone conflict.
“It’s really realistic,” said grade 6 participant, Rhiannon Spinks. “The actors really do a great job and they make you feel like you’re there.”
Some students were so moved and affected by the real-life scenarios that they became emotional.
“When we were escaping from the schoolhouse over there, the machine gun sounds were actually really scary,” Rhiannon said.
The event is the brainchild of Brinkerhoff, who is the director of an organization called Global Citizen Kelowna.
“Global Citizen Events is an annual initiative,” Brinkerhoff said. “And it is to promote the sustainable development goals set out by the United Nations.”
It takes about 350 volunteers and thousands of hours to man the Global Schoolhouse — volunteers like Mia Makela, a grade 6 student who’s missing school to help role play.
“I’m acting as a girl who’s younger sibling is sick so I can’t go to school because I have to take care of him,” Mia said. “And then I’m acting that I got my uniform ripped so I can’t go into the classroom without my uniform.”
Complete with set design and costumes, the 9-day event is staged to be as realistic as possible to make the learning experience that much more powerful.
“I’m learning a lot,” Mia said. “I’m learning all about different people that can’t go to school and why they can’t go to school and all the places that they live in.”
Brinkerhoff suggests looking at the United Nation’s 17 sustainable development goals to see what we can do in our own lives to make a difference.
“Thinking about where you’re buying your clothes. Thinking about fair trade. Looking for fair trade labels,” Brinkerhoff said. “How about even recycling?”
The goal of the event is to get students passionate about making a difference in a community, no matter the distance.
“We can do something and, if everybody does something, then there’s a lot of somethings being done,” Brinkerhoff said. “It’s important to give people opportunities that they really want and they’re looking for and sometimes it’s just a bit of a helping hand.”
There will be approximately 1800 students experiencing the Global Schoolhouse in Kelowna and the program, which started on Feb. 5, runs until Feb. 14.
“I think it’s a really great experience and it’s one that I probably won’t forget,” Rhiannon said.