By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Anyone walking into the Morinville Seniors’ Rendez-Vous Centre Saturday afternoon walked into what appeared to be a traditional Christmas celebration for children. Santa was there posing for pictures and there were Christmas games to be played, Christmas songs to be sung and lots of opportunity to decorate cookies with all the festive trappings. But while the event was a child pleaser for those who attended the event, the real purpose was to please children in Belize by helping with their educational pursuits.
The dual-purpose event was organized by Morinville Community High School (MCHS) students who are part of the Morinville Interact Club, a youth group associated with Rotary International. The Morinville Interact Club currently has eight members and has already began thinking big as to what they can do to help in their community and the world around them.
MCHS student and president of the Morinville Interact Club Morgan Allen said she became acquainted with the Rotary Club of Morinville when she was looking to go on a year-long student exchange. Although the trip did not take place, Allen did participate in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards program, and it is through that program that the seed for Interact was planted.
“Through that I got a lot of training and a lot of inspiration to start something where I could be a leader,” Allen said, adding that eventually led to her forming the Morinville Interact Club, something the student said was a bit of a challenge initially. “It was hard because not a lot of teenagers necessarily want to start doing charity work all the time – until they start doing it. I think when people start doing it, and then they start to see kind of the beauty in it. They start to see how fun it can be and how much it does help.”
Allen explained once students began to grasp the concept of Interact and what could be done through the group, interest in joining the club increased.
Only a few months after starting, Interact members held their first major fundraising event, last Saturday’s Santa Cause. Although Allen said she’d hope for a few more people to bring their children to the family-friendly event, she and fellow Interact members were thankful for the support of the event and its cause, education in Belize.
“We want to support education for children in Belize, education being one of the main things that can lead people out of poverty,” Allen said. “It gives them the skills to achieve things in life, to have the resources to get themselves out of where they’re stuck.”
Allen said the club is hoping to send three people to Belize in 2011. Although fundraising will help towards the cost, participants will be paying the bulk of the money to travel to the Central American country.
“Down there we’ll be painting schools, helping do maintenance in the schools, teaching the kids,” Allen said. “While we’re down there we hope to find something that we see fit to donate the money to that we raise after that.”
Rotary Club of Morinville President Syl Haisan said he was pleased with what the local Interact group is doing.
“Morgan and her group are doing a great job,” Haisan said, adding the excitement and enthusiasm of Interact clubs was a major attraction during a recent Rotary conference in Montreal. “These kids just brought all kinds of excitement in there. They’re learning to be volunteers and they’ll be Rotarians after.”
Although Allen is still a few years away from being old enough to join Rotary, she is enjoying the experience of being associated with the club through Interact.
“I really like the relationships that I’ve made,” Allen said. “It’s nice to find people who have similar goals to myself. But it’s also nice to know that what we’re doing, what we’re spending our time on, is helping other people while we’re having fun, instead of just helping ourselves.
Amounts raised during the Santa Cause were not available by MorinvilleNews.com deadline.