It was a full house Wednesday night at Spencer Middle School as First Nations students in the Sooke School District were recognized for their success.
With a graduation rate of about 62 per cent, the students fared better than those in every other school district in the province.
There are more than 900 aboriginal students enrolled in the Sooke School District, representing about 10 per cent of the student population. The students are primarily from the Scia’new, Pacheedaht and T’Sou-ke Nations, with others identifying themselves as Métis or Inuit.
The curriculum is designed to foster a strong sense of pride, build confidence and instil knowledge of their heritage.
The students’ success is a reflection of the community behind them, says Kathleen King-Hunt, principal for aboriginal education in School District 62.
“The whole community is working with us to make this a success,” she says. “Its dads, moms and even the chiefs see the value of education and are keen to work and walk with us to bring about positive outcomes for their children.”
Housing project set for Saanich property
A surplus piece of municipal property in the North Quadra area of Saanich will soon become the site of Habitat for Humanity Victoria’s next affordable housing project. Saanich and Habitat for Humanity have collaborated on eight projects in the municipality, the most recent a duplex on Ker Avenue.
Habitat has already introduced the project at 4000 Cedar Hill Cross Rd. to the neighbourhood as it seeks to rezone the site and construct a modest multi-unit townhouse.
“We are proud to partner with Habitat for Humanity and support their work in bringing affordable family homes into our community,” said Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard.
“The Cedar Hill Cross Road location is ideal for families. We anticipate a creative building design that respects the neighbourhood — and we look forward to public input as the rezoning application proceeds.”
As part of its Affordable Homeownership Program, Habitat Victoria constructs homes in partnership with sponsors and families in need. Selected families are expected to contribute up to 500 hours of sweat equity toward the home’s construction. They then can purchase it with an interest-free mortgage.
For more information, go to habitatvictoria.com.
Running program celebrates 4 years
A program to introduce walking and running to men and women who experience challenges with mental health, addictions, poverty, social isolation and other barriers has quietly celebrated four years of success.
Every Step Counts is a community initiative of the Victoria Foundation, housed and run through the Victoria Cool Aid Society. It is an inclusive program that has played a vital part in improving the health and happiness of 460 participants since February 2009.
The program is one of the official charities of the Times Colonist 10K and is putting together a team for the run. Members of the public are welcome to run with the group and raise pledges to support the program.
For more information, go to coolaid.org/esc.
Victoria friends mix travel, good works
A group of eight like-minded friends from Victoria travelled to Juarez, Mexico, to share their time and skills building a retirement home for women.
The group, which included building contractors, plumbers and electricians, worked 12 days to finish the project. Locals who worked alongside the group were taught some construction skills.
Saanich Coun. Leif Wergeland has in the past donated money to worthwhile causes, but says physically working on a project is a completely different experience.
“It’s quite a life-changing experience,” Wergeland says of his time in Juarez.
“When a person gives of oneself like this, they can see the impact they have on other people’s lives.”
He says that although the structure isn’t going to help hundreds of people, it will change — and improve — the lives of the dozen or more elderly women who now call it home.
The group members were inspired to donate their time and money for the project by Operation Amigo Building Society, a charitable ministry out of central Alberta.
The society’s founders, a retired construction contractor and his wife, were moved to help build a washroom for a family 20 years ago. The success of that small project has led to houses, churches and even schools being built by a succession of volunteers from all walks of life.
“It was a great feeling to work with the locals to create something better,” Wergeland says.
For more information, go to operationamigo.org.
Fundraiser assists brain-injured man
A fundraiser on behalf of Joshua Harris-Branigan will be held March 9 at the Mary Winspear Theatre in the Charlie White Theatre at 7:30 p.m.
The 22-year-old is in Victoria General Hospital after falling off a 30-metre cliff in the Comox area on New Year’s Day. He was in a coma for 24 days and has struggled through a number of complications related to a brain injury.
Harris-Branigan’s family has incurred a number of expenses, including the need to move to Victoria to aid in the recovery of the young man and to assist in many of the medical decisions to be made surrounding his case.
A Facebook page called JHB Recovery has been set up to share information on Harris-Branigan’s recovery.
Saturday’s fundraiser will feature live music from Juno Award winner Sue Medley and the Back Roads Band, plus an appearance from Whistler DJ Peace Frog on loan from Buffalo Bill’s Nightclub.
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