March 29 / 2019

Why We Serve - Kenya and India Service Trips

“Caring, Open mindedness, Courage, Enquirers and being Knowledgeable are some of the ten learner attributes which comprise the International Baccalaureate’s (IB) Learner Profile….

…but we do not go simply to tick a box or fulfill a CAS requirement”

Over the March Break, two groups of grade 11 students from The York School went on life-changing, life affirming International Service Trips. One group of students took part in our first ever Kenya Trip run-through with ME to WE in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. The other group travelled to the Global Pathways School in Tamil Nadu, India where The York School has been involved since the school’s founding in 2005 (the India Trip cohort arrives back tomorrow!). Pictures and excerpts from the India Trip can be read in their blog.

The WE Kenya Trip

The Kenya trip this year was a new experience for both The York School and ME To WE who helped organize the itinerary based on their International Development model, We Villages, focusing on the pillars: Water, Health, Education, Food Security, and Economic Opportunity. Our students had the opportunity to work with the local community through a variety of activities to both support and learn from that community. Students collected and carried water, helped lay a foundation for a new school classroom, taught in grade 2 to grade 8 classrooms, and visited health centres and community farms to learn about sustainable development. They also learned how important it is to develop economic opportunity in the community to ensure long term success.  

Excerpt from the Kenya Trip diary: “The past few days have been active ones with us participating at the build site at the nearby primary school on a daily basis. This has included breaking ground, digging the foundations and mixing the cement that the new school block will be built on. We also got a first hand experience of the journey many families make to get water. During the water walk we took turns carrying 20L jerry cans (the traditional way) from a local water source to a mamas house.”  

Glen Blair, our Middle School Counsellor and Senior School Advisor, was the lead teacher on the Kenya Trip this year. He shared the following reflections about the experience:

“We go because we know we are lucky. We turn a tap, and clean water flows. For us, a school education is a given right. We go to connect with a community and offer a hand up instead of a hand out to help lift them out of poverty and provide education for their children. We know that what we have as York School students is not the reality of many children around the world. But we are confident it can be, and are hopeful it will be.”

The students will share their reflections from the Kenya Trip and India Trip at the Middle and Senior School Service Assembly on Tuesday April 30th and the Junior School Service Assembly on Friday May 3rd. Current Grade 10 students interested in applying to participate next year should watch their inbox for International Service Trip Application Forms being released in mid April.

From prairies to mountains to high tides - Challenge Week

In May, students from Grade 6 - 10 will be travelling throughout North America for Challenge Week. With open minds they will ask questions and learn about aspects of Canada and The United States, and in the process learn about themselves. Like our recent student visits to India and Kenya, along the way our students will grow in confidence, find their voice and stand confidently as they tell their stories.   

Jenny’s Retirement

With her retirement after 15 years, sitting down with Jenny to talk about her experience at The York School is a near impossible task. First Ms. Charley swoops in to give her a hug. Then Mr. DeMarinis, followed by Mr. Jones and a line up of teachers and students. All with stories about her being the kitchen magician. Salad bar top up? No knives? Jenny delivers.

“Fifteen years is a long time. It flies by in a heartbeat,” muses Mr. Jones. “Jenny and I started out at the same time.”

“There were 3 of us at the beginning with a chef,” says Jenny. “And when Aramark took over from Sodexo many years ago, the CFO here agreed only on the condition that we stay with The York School. That meant a lot to us.”  

So much growth and change has happened over the last 15 years to which Jenny has had a front-row seat feeding staff and students.    

We asked her for some wisdom before she embarked on this new chapter called retirement:

What advice do you have for new teachers and students coming to The York School?

“Introduce yourself. It’s a bigger school now, but it’s still family. You’ll see everyone is warm and open. And with such diversity, there are so many stories in these halls.”

Did you have a favourite student?  

“Besides my own kids? An impossible question! All of them of course. I like that the grade 11 and 12 kids always came and gave me a hug.”

An energetic grandmother of 4 herself, she holds her hand 80 cm over the floor “I’ve known some of the kids here since they were this high. Sophie, Charlie, all of them. I will miss the kids the most,” she says.*  

Favourite meal?

“Shrimp and Pork Dumplings without hesitation. Shrimp spring rolls too. I don’t care too much for chocolate croissants.”   

In a world of so much change, especially on Yonge Street (in the crane capital of North America), it’s nice to see a friendly familiar face greeting you at the food counter every day.

We will miss you Jenny! Happy Retirement!   

* She adds with a nostalgic lament, “I’ll come back in a few weeks to give a proper good-bye to the kids who are in India right now. They are all so great”  

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