Quebec elementary school students send cards of love, encouragement to Australian firefighters

Click to play video: 'Australian firefighters receive cards from Quebec students' Australian firefighters receive cards from Quebec students
WATCH: Quebec teacher Amanda Donovan has assigned some heartwarming homework to her young students: write messages of hope to Australian firefighters. Amanda Jelowicki explains – Jan 29, 2020

“Was it easy for people in Australia to experience the fires?” teacher Janet Ritchie asks her class of Grade 1 and Grade 2 students.

“No,” the six-and-seven-year-olds reply, many shaking their heads.

Up until last month, most of these children at St. John’s Elementary school in Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., had never even heard of Australia.

READ MORE: Australia’s wildfires are burning an area larger than the size of Nova Scotia

That changed when one of their teachers, Amanda Donovan, found out her parents were planning to take a cruise to Australia in January.

“As an educator, you are always thinking of your kids,” she said.

“I was brainstorming with my husband, and thought, ‘What if the kids were to do arts and crafts and make cards to go to Australia?’ My mom and dad could bring them with them on the cruise.”

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So the class started learning about the wildfires devastating Australia. They learned about homes burned down, and too many animals killed to count.

“There are animals that are dying, trees are falling, koalas are dying too,” seven-year-old Kassandra Pelletier said.

“It’s really sad.”

Early this month, the students started drawing cards for firefighters in Australia. They decorated koalas or kangaroos on the front, and inside, they wrote messages of hope and love.

“I wrote that I hope they get lots of rain in Australia and I hope the fires will be gone,” said six-year-old Elly Donovan, whose grandparents were delivering the letters.

“I wrote that I hope animals don’t die,” Pelletier added.

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READ MORE: With no plan in place, a retired Edmonton firefighter flew out to Australia to help fight wildfires

The teachers packed up the cards and gave them to Amanda Donovan’s parents in the middle of this month.

Donovan’s parents did research on where their cruise ship was calling port. They decided they would get off in Eden, Australia, south of Canberra.

Their cruise ship director heard about the letters and organized transportation for the couple. They were driven from the ship to the Fire and Rescue Station in Eden, New South Wales.

The department was so touched by the cards, it posted the story on Facebook. The outpouring from Australians was overflowing, with many messages of gratitude.

One read:  “Your messages were very uplifting for the people of Australia. Just knowing that you care so much about our beautiful animals and country. Hopefully one day you will be able to visit Australia.

“Thank you again to Canada.”

READ MORE: Massive wildfires are permanently altering Australia’s landscape, scientists say

Back in Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, the teachers told the children how grateful Australians were with the letters.

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“It’s really fun for me to help Australia. I never knew where it was, Australia,” Pelletier said.

“But now I learned about it, it makes me really happy.”

The teachers said they are overwhelmed by the response of the small gesture of their students. But they add they are important learning tools.

“Kindness has no limits, and when we start with our littlest, just think of their lives and how much kindness they can bring,” Donovan said.

Janet Ritchie hopes it teaches the children to be good global citizens.

“I thought it was really special for the kids to see their gesture, their act of kindness has an impact,” Ritchie said.

“I hope it will be a benchmark for them as they live their life or a reference point where their actions have an impact, and to choose kind actions.”

The firefighters were so touched, they are sending back a box of colouring books, crayons, hats and lego for the students.

And now the children know they sent messages of love around the world, and they came right back.

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