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Shawnigan Lake School kindness campaign reaching out to veterans

“I realized that most kids just don’t understand the importance of the day”
Shawnigan Lake School students write letters to local veterans during their kindness campaign in 2020. (Arden Gill photo)

By Jennifer Dunbar

Personal connection is at the forefront of a campaign recently launched by Grade 12 Shawnigan Lake School student Stephanie Gilmour that is reaching out to Cowichan Valley veterans this Remembrance Day.

When Shawnigan students were tasked with designing a year-long “SOUL Seeking” pursuit (an inquiry-based passion project), Gilmour was instantly inspired. Before long, her kindness campaign was born.

The initiative began in early October when Gilmour arranged a pen pal system between the girls in her boarding house and residents of a long-term care home in Ontario.

“They’ve been in complete lockdown since COVID began,” shares Gilmour. “In some cases, the letters have been the only thing keeping them going. That’s where this whole kindness campaign came from — I wanted to make connections through the written word.”

Her peers were happy to get involved, and Gilmour was excited to share that the first replies from the residents of the long-term care home have just been put in the mail. She and her housemates are eagerly anticipating their arrival.

Local veterans were the most recent focus of Gilmour’s kindness campaign — and this time, she wanted to include the whole school.

“Before I came to Shawnigan, I used to go to the cenotaph in North Vancouver with my family on Remembrance Day,” explains Gilmour. “I was often the only person my age there. I realized that most kids just don’t understand the importance of the day, or know how to get involved. When I came to Shawnigan last year, I realized that the school runs a really special service and does a wonderful job involving the students, and I was inspired. I wanted kids to feel the impact of doing something for the veterans.”

With that in mind, Gilmour connected with the Malahat Legion and the Lodge at Broadmead, who were each able to provide her with the names of local veterans. She then delivered a heartfelt speech to the whole school, inviting every student to write a personal letter to a veteran on the list. With one student per boarding house each writing to one person, this would ensure that every veteran would receive at least 10 letters.

Gilmour arranged for cards and envelopes to be brought to each boarding house, then collected and sorted the cards and brought them to the Malahat Legion and the Lodge at Broadmead, who will deliver them to the intended recipients.

“At the end of this project, my hope is that it will not only have an impact on the veterans’ lives, but on each student’s life as well,” shares Gilmour. “I hope that they will want to continue doing things like this, knowing what kind of effect this has on people.”

Gilmour’s kindness campaign cuts straight to the heart of what matters most in these times: a personal connection.