By Rebecca Kerr
There is an adage “it takes a Village to raise a child”. That was evident on a cold brisk wintry morning in February when approximately 150 students from Driftwood Public School, Warden Woods Public School and John McCrae Public School boarded a Via Rail Train bound for Ottawa, the Nation’s capital as part of the Children’s Breakfast Club’s celebration of Black History Month.
The Children’s Breakfast Club, the brainchild of its founder Rick Gosling, has been providing not only healthy breakfasts to hungry children since 1984 but has been feeding and nourishing the minds of young students by also providing opportunities outside of the school environment including initiatives like the trip to Parliament Hill for Black History Month.
A 15-year Via Rail collaboration with Children’s Breakfast Club, the trip to Ottawa for BHM continues to be for all supporters of the initiative an opportunity for the students to be inspired and to be exposed to the world of possibilities. A sentiment echoed by long time supporting partner Via Rail’s Vladimir Jean-Pierre.
“I’ve been involved with the Children’s Breakfast Club for the last 12 years and I still get excited to greet the students and have them on board the train for this trip to Ottawa it’s an opportunity for them to be inspired”, he shared.
Even though it was an extremely early start, the energy and excitement were high and contagious as the students, teachers and dignitaries gathered at Union Station.
Prior to departure presentations of a framed Black History Month poster were made to Robert Johnson of the Toronto Police Service, Jerome Sta Maria, Peel Police Service, the former Ontario Minister of Community and Social Services Zanana Akande, and President of Via Rail. The students were outfitted with Black History Month T-shirts sponsored by ATU Local 113, which provided buses to transport students teachers and volunteers to Union Station. The poster notes the celebration of Emancipation Day and Buxton Homecoming.
On board, the students were served breakfast, played games while some even prepared questions they wanted to ask the MPs and possibly the PM. The “Village” was well represented on the train. Childrens Breakfast Club volunteer Justin Terry, a supporter for over 13 years, was also along on the ride as was Chris Campbell of the Carpenters Union, Gordon Cudjoe, Hugh Ferguson, Toronto Police Service, Jerome Sta Maria, Peel Regional Service, Marvin Alfred, ATU Local 113, and Ms. Akande.
Mr. Perna, a teacher at John McCrae public school, expressed the importance of nourishing the mind. “Yes, I’m excited about the trip. It is a chance to be part of something wonderful. These kids get to be on a train, experience different cultures and different perspectives, an experience like this helps it make the curriculum relevant, and the students are more motivated and want to be engaged”.
Seyon Selvaakaran, a student at John McCrae, was excited to be on a train the adventure with approximately 40 of his fellow students and seeing the parliament buildings. With an interest in politics, he was armed and ready with questions he had for the MP’s and possible audience with the Prime Minister. Questions like “what could the PM do to change the price of gas and make more electric cars?”
Arrival in Ottawa was just before noon, and with a jammed packed afternoon scheduled, the students and dignitaries were bused to Parliament Hill where they were given a brief history lesson about the Parliament buildings and how the government conducts its business. After lunch it was time for some serious business – meeting the MP’s.
However, an audience with the man himself PM Justin Trudeau did not materialize. The Prime Minister was not available as he was not in the country. A bit of disappointment was felt by most, but the overall experience of the day softened the impact.I H
The highlight of the day was a visit to the House of Commons. MPs, Marci Ien, John McKay, Judy Sgro, Selma Zahid, Gary Anandasangaree, took time out of their busy day to welcome the students and to share with them what it takes to do a job like theirs seeing themselves represented at the highest levels of government and knowing it can be achieved with hard work and dedication.
Ien, Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Youth of Canada, got questions not about politics but on her fashion sense; she in turn took the opportunity to talk about her support for local black women entrepreneurs and businesses. She was also presented with a framed Black History Month Poster, and a helmet from the Carpenters council before heading back to her caucus meeting.
Presentations of the BHM Poster were also made to Johnathan Liu, Treaty Three Police Service, Kai Liu, Treaty Three Police Service, and David Zackrias, Ottawa Police Service. Finally, the students were seated in the public gallery for an up-close look at what goes on in the House of Commons’ Question
The day ended as it started, the air filled with excitement, and the energy high celebrating Black History Black Excellence. The students boarded the buses and headed back to the train station, taking with them memories from an experience they will have for a lifetime.
And as the poster, it proudly boasts “Black History is Everyone’s History 365 days of the year”