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Canadian students video chat with Nicaraguan counterparts

An initiative intended to educate one class in Ontario has far-reaching impact

By Philip A. Tanner, Ph.D., director of programs and strategic initiatives, CCFC

At Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC), we believe in listening to children and hearing their concerns. That’s why it was inspiring to see this philosophy come to life in a big way last week when elementary school students from Whitby, Ont. enjoyed a video chat with students from Managua, Nicaragua. They learned each other’s dreams, challenges and experiences.

The idea for this exchange began when my 11-year-old came home one day with a request: “Dad, we watched an amazing YouTube video on Guatemala — you’ve got to watch it!,” she said. It was about formal and informal employment in the country and the hardship families face due to migration and poverty. I was intrigued. So, I met with my daughter’s teacher after learning she was looking for a parent to talk about Central America. I had just returned from Guatemala and thought I could help.

Before long, we were figuring out how to link Glen Dhu, my daughter’s school, with one of the schools CCFC works with in Nicaragua via video conference. La Libertad elementary school, based in Managua, became that school, and the students were giddy with excitement. In Whitby, Keith Wainwright, the forward-thinking principal at Glen Dhu, immediately set planning into high gear.

First, the kids swapped videos introducing themselves, giving campus tours and talking about their school routine. Then a video conference clicked on, and there was a tangible buzz in the air as children from both sides of the chat squirmed with excitement. Their hands shooting up as they competed for camera time.

Nicaraguan students asked about our weather, our flag, our food and, to the delight of Glen Dhu students, our diversity. They wanted to know if it was true Canada had six months of winter and that “wolves” pulled us on sleds! They couldn’t believe the facilities — libraries, cafeterias and gymnasiums — Canadian students enjoyed.

Glen Dhu students were surprised Nicaraguan students wore blue-and-white uniforms — the white symbolizing purity and the blue for their lakes — and that their entire country’s population was equal to that of the Greater Toronto Area. They were also shocked to hear Nicaraguans lived next to the active Masaya Volcano and that Nicaragua’s national sport is baseball — not soccer. They even learned that the Central American country’s national teams were so underfunded that they sometimes use rocks and grapefruits for batting practice.

There was one clear commonality: students from both countries shared aspirations for achieving greatness. They shared a passion for music, learning instruments, sports as well as living in a peaceful community that supported their ambitions. They wanted to be soccer and basketball stars, engineers, doctors and teachers. “Just like us,” one Glen Dhu student whispered.

I was reminded what happens when a small voice sets an idea in motion. My daughter became a catalyst that enabled her teachers to create space for an amazing event, expanding the minds of children in two countries. Now, that’s amazing.

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About Christian Children’s Fund of Canada:

Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) is a child-centred international development organization and a member of ChildFund Alliance. For nearly 60 years, CCFC has worked with children, communities, donors and other partners — changing lives through improved health, education and clean water. CCFC works in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas, to support more than 700,000 children, youth and community members.