HELP International

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As preparation for the immersion program or just for a fun educational day, HELP International facilitators can come out to your school to do a variety of activities with students, focusing on the theme of helping. Facilitators (2 to 4) will try to arrive by 08:15.  Students are sought to assist in unloading a truck load of props and to set up various displays while other students are assigned to learning (very quickly) traditional skills, games and technologies so that they can facilitate other students during breaks and outdoor activities.   We ask the group to forego normal recesses if possible so we can create our own recesses for outdoor activity (we try to abide by the normal school lunch period). The program ends around 3 pm after which we ask student volunteers to assist in the extensive clean up and pack up. 
Two-thirds of the in-service will be relegated to completely interconnected themes. Themes include:
  • Identity: prairie identity-what makes Saskatchewan people recognized internationally?
  • Common Traditional Heritage: we all share a common heritage.
  • Perceptions of Africa: what are student's perceptions of Africa?  How has the media influenced them?
  • Helping: what is broken that needs fixing? How to be an effective helper.
  • An Aid Worker's Treasure Box: stories from the front lines.
  • Helping as Enlightened Self Interest: it’s only a matter of "How big am I?"
  • Zero Waste: let’s imagine a sustainable world without garbage pits or sewers... now let’s   achieve it!
  • The Earth as one organism.
  • Exchanging views on how we can assist one another via the world's first Zero Waste Community Management Program (in Kenya).
  • Preparation Talks Relating to the Immersion Program: what to expect, what to bring-and what not to bring, how to prepare, etc. 
The program allows students to:
  • Identify for themselves what's broken that needs fixing in the world.
  • Identify what they personally can do to fix what's broken.
  • Identify how we may be part of the problem: carry out consumption calculations comparing water consumption in Canada vs. Africa as an indicator of general consumption patterns.  Calculate your family’s CO2 emissions and the number of trees requiring planting to consume this CO2.
  • Identify what are the characteristics of effective helping
  • Understand past case studies of problematic development projects and compare student-generated approaches with that of NGOs. Discuss outcomes as relates to useful and unuseful approaches to development.
  • Learn about  current HELP facilitated projects in Africa and challenges faced, and solicit serious student input, discussion and recommendations for consideration by HELP’s mission in Kenya.
  • Have the  opportunity to engage in concrete follow-on international development education and assistance by: joining  the school link program with a class in HELP’s partner school in Kitui Village Slum, Nairobi or by agreeing to spend one hour planting trees and grass with HELP supervision as erosion control on a river margin, or at a land fill or oil spill site in a phytoremediation effort to allow plants to decontaminate the sites through hydraulic control, metabolizing of wastes, or by accumulation of harmful chemicals in the plant’s woody material.
  • Design their own strategy for becoming a helper (does not have to relate to HELP International) focusing on effecting in some small way one local problem and one problem affecting someone or some community in the third world.

NOTE: HELP is willing to carry out a 20 to 30 minute full-school assembly power talk on any of the above themes or a combination of all, prior to commencing the in-service for the class(es) involved in the in-service/immersion. 

The Immersion Program:
This program takes place at HELP's new international development theme park where students engage in a number of environmental and cultural activities, living 'the rural and peri-urban African life'. Students can come out for 1-3 days and learn about traditional technologies, cultural interconnectivity, and environmental sustainability.
>Day One:  Living Traditional Africa:
  • Build a small portion of a traditional pau pick mud and thatch house.
  • Process food traditionally by pounding corn, oats and wheat and grating coconut.
  • Manufacture a stone hand drill utilizing a bicycle spoke, dowel and file.
  • Complete a t-shirt tie dye design.
  • Stone carving utilizing simple traditional African tools.
  • Participate in traditional living exercises including: traditional art interpretation, water carrying, and investigation of home tools, African games, singing, dance, and drumming.
  • Sleep in a traditional African mud and thatch home (if students are staying for two or more days).
  • Use all of the above as a window into our own collective pasts (i.e.: folk of European, Asian and South American descent all lived for thousands of years using the above forms of housing, tools and technology.)
  • Myths, legends and nursery rhymes of our own are used to show how they contain keys to the secrets of our past beliefs, traditions and conditions of life.
>Day Two: Hands-On Appropriate Technology:

Day two has the students divided into two groups: half of the students will choose Zero Waste Micro Enterprise Activities while the other half engage in Zero Waste Agriculture Inventions and Learning.

Zero Waste Micro Enterprise students carry out the following hands-on activities:

  • Pressing oil from canola and sunflowers.
  • Manufacturing compression bricks-harder than baked bricks without firing (saving forests).
  • Utilizing fireless cookers: a cooker that requires no energy source but the heat in the food itself! (If there are a couple really eager students they could manufacture one.)
  • Manufacturing hand made paper using newly-invented hand-driven and bicycle-driven paper mill. 
  • Manufacturing fibre board using paper and discarded clothing.
  • Manufacturing nursery webbing using discarded plastic bags. 
Zero Waste Agriculture students carry out the following hands-on activities:
  • Harvest seeds from discarded market fruit and vegetables; manufacture screens for drying and separating/cleaning; manufacture small seed baggies from larger discarded plastic bags; treat the dry seed against termites with charcoal or wood ash. 
  • Observe the construction and demo use of a zero waste toilet that safely recycles 100% of wastes.
  • Graft a tree: Learning this intriguing skill that has been the domain of only research scientists. Grafting makes a very young tree have the capacity to produce seeds or fruit as young as one year instead of the normal five to ten years.
  • Plant trees and grasses (for one hour) on very special 'phytoremediation sites' where the trees and grasses will reverse unique problems at landfills, lagoons and high-salinity sites.
  • Take a side tour to the nearby intriguing quicksand hills-hills that shake like jelly.
>Day Three Option: Hands-On Appropriate Technology:
  • With the three-day program all the students can do both the Zero Waste Micro Enterprise activities and the Zero Waste Agriculture Inventions and Learning activities. They also have more free time in which students can go back to their favourite activities, go fishing (for those appropriately licensed), or get tutoring on a one-to-one basis from the instructors in any area including potential follow-on projects the school might want to take on.
>Follow on activities for schools who want to make a difference:
  • Participating school classes are encouraged to assist the African projects by taking problems back to their schools to work on. These activities are completely optional and would be carried out AFTER the immersion program. Schools who request to do follow-on activities may do one of the following:
    • Take a simple zero waste technology from the African Village Park to their school to try to improve it. The project has made some ten new inventions including hand-driven paper mills, fibre board presses, handheld seed-separator and cleaning screens, etc. Many of these need improvements that any home-economics, science, industrial arts or welding class could assist with.
    • Carry out simple tropical agriculture experiments relating to problems HELP and its partners are experiencing in Kenya such as: germination testing, nursing seedlings in micro amounts of soil to create less expensive trees and transport of same, etc. 
    • Assist in the sale of zero waste products produced by women-led home associations from slums in Kenya. Items including: handmade paper, fibre board (can be used as bulletin boards), letters, numbers and symbols carved from stone for school use etc.   These represent real problems that are affecting the projects and need real solutions. It is not just a repeat exercise where the results are known, but an opportunity to do new research and valuable problem-solving for the project.  
Please contact HELP for current pricing.
Fund-raising Assistance:
Schools can apply for funding from the following organizations:
  • S.O.E.E.A. (Saskatchewan Outdoor and Environmental Education Association)
  • Official Language Council (For French Immersion schools- program is offered in both official languages.)

HELP's sponsor, the Art Africa corporation, will donate $100 worth of African Art for each eco-camp day or stand-alone in-service day booked. The art can be used by the school for fundraising, for awards, or for adornment of your school.
Art Africa also provides art as tokens of appreciation to teachers and parent chaperones to recognize the value of volunteerism for the ecology camps.  These are given at the end of the live-in ecology camp programs.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding HELP's school program. If you have a question or concern that is not addressed then feel free to contact us.
1. What is the African Village Immersion Program?
The African Village is the meeting place for HELP’s Development Education programs for schools. The program, ongoing since 1994, is bigger and better than ever. One-, two- and three-day immersion programs are available where students live in a traditional African environment. Program themes that are woven together emphasize our common heritage, identity-building, unleashing creative force, learning to live in co-existence with the environment, learning to be effective leaders/helpers,  and empowering youth: you can fix what's broken; you can make a difference NOW! 
2. Where is the African Village Immersion Program held?
In early 2002 the African Village/International Development Theme Park was moved to its third and permanent home. It is situated on a beautiful ten-acre river-frontage, one km outside of Weyburn. 
 The African Village boasts four traditional African mud and thatch housing structures, ten thatched patio tables, a Robinson Crusoe-style dining table to sit fifty students, 2,500 sq. feet of indoor pavilion space, an African Art Gallery, a modern guest house, and HELP's head office.
3. What age groups are appropriate for the program?
Programs are customized for all age groups and experience levels, from young primary school children to post graduate university students and professional organizations.

4. What does the African Village Immersion consist of?
The site accommodates up to 50 students plus 10 chaperones on one-, two- and three-day programs. The students sleep in traditional African structures, and utilize traditional clay pot, mortar, and pestle technology for food preparation. Other traditional activities include: building a portion of a traditional African house (mud stomping, post hole digging, grass thatching); traditional stone carving; tie-dye fabric design; each student making their own hand drill.
5. What is Zero Waste Management and what part do schools play in it?
Zero Waste Management is the commitment to convert 100% of wastes produced by a household into new usable products using low-cost, simple, home-based technology. It is the belief that 100% recycling is not only possible and profitable, but is a necessary solution to creating sustainable human communities without destroying the natural environment. Zero Waste is the belief that there IS a future for our children and grandchildren; that the solution is not difficult; that youth involvement can help make the world a better place; and that all that is really needed are good examples for young people to follow.
6. How do Zero Waste concepts fit into the school program?
The current Zero Waste model is being built for Africa. The idea behind incorporating Zero Waste into the African Village Immersion Program is:
  • To introduce Zero Waste concepts to Canada through the schools.
  • To provide grade-school students the opportunity to learn hands-on, leading-edge research and technology that is not even available to International Development Studies programs in Canadian Universities. This becomes a kind of 'head-start' program for prairie Canada and for Saskatchewan schools in particular.
  • To provide students with the opportunity to actually help solve problems in the first ever zero waste project, which happens to be taking place in Kenya.
7. What length of program do most schools choose?
Currently about half the schools are booking two-day immersions with a preliminary one day school in-service and same day parent night. The other half are booking three-day immersion programs with the preliminary one day school in-service and parent night. The program has evolved over the years to:
  • a one-day (seven hour) immersion only
  • a one-day immersion with a one-day in-service at the school prior to the immersion
  • a two-day immersion with a one-day in-service
  • a two- to three-day immersion with a one-day preparatory in-service followed by a parent night the same day. (Note that we are also prepared to provide a one-half hour to one hour of full school assembly motivational talk in addition to the whole-day in-service with the one or two classes participating in the immersion).  
8. Why consider doing the three-day immersion?
A two-day immersion has twelve hours of activity in day one and eight hours in day two (assuming after breakfast activities start at 09:00 and the class leaves the site at 5 pm). The three-day immersion provides thirty-two hours of hands-on activity compared to the twenty hours of a two-day immersion. A three-day immersion also allows for the following:
  • All students can do ALL the Zero Waste Micro Enterprise activities AND ALL the Zero Waste Agriculture Activities. The students that do Zero Waste Micro Enterprise in day two would do Zero Waste Agriculture in day three and vice versa.
  • Two to three sessions of free time become available in which students can
    • go back to their favourite activities
    • get tutoring on a one-to-one basis from the instructors in any area including potential follow on projects the school might want to take on.
    • go fishing.  (Note about fishing: Fishing should be restricted to kids who have or can obtain licenses before coming AND that teachers give a strict pep talk about fishing safety- especially about maintaining at least three metres between people if they are 'casting' so no one gets snagged with a hook.)    
Two-day immersions are also very fun and impactful, but allow for much less free time.  
7. What facilities are required for the in-service at our school?
Preferably one large room or an auditorium if the acoustics are ok. The room or auditorium should be as near an outside door as possible. If the weather is amenable we will want to carry on a number of hands-on introductory sessions outdoors; this will lessen the amount of clean-up required inside the school (soapstone dust, dust from hand-milling etc.).   The room should be cleared of all desks - students, teachers, and facilitators all sit in one very large circle open to a blackboard area. We would also like about four or five tables of about six foot length for displays outside the circle of chairs.   Other props that would be useful: Sticky Tack, flip charts, lots of felt markers, masking tape, and name tags for all students, teachers, and facilitators- this is to make the event as personal as possible.  
8. What takes place at the in-service?
Check out our programming outline section for a description of the in-service.
9. Is there some pre-planning that students should do before going out to camp?
If the in-service is booked far in advance of the immersion, you can use concepts presented to follow up with class discussions. Or, if desired, perhaps some documentation of the Kenyan projects could be provided beforehand so that students could be exposed to the problems the project is encountering and could be prepared to discuss possible solutions by the time we carry out the in-service. Because the immersion program is very hands-on, there is not a lot of time for in-depth discussions at that time - these take place in the one-day in-service.   The one-day in-service and same-day parent night is geared to fully prepare students, teachers, and parents for the immersion program.  
10.  If classes choose the swimming option, when would this take place?
In a two-day immersion, swimming is recommended for 3 pm on day one. In a three-day immersion, swimming is recommended for 2 pm or so on day two. Swimming also allows for a good shower! The additional cost for swimming at the Weyburn Leisure Centre is $1.50 per student. If additional transport is required, Barber Motors has been providing sponsored passenger vans when available.
11. What role do teachers and parent chaperones have while at the camp?
We ask that a minimum of two teachers and three parents attend. If possible, select one parent who has first aid training. We’ve never had a serious incident on site, but we always take a safety first and preparedness approach. We ask that you select teachers and parent chaperones who agree to be full participants. They should separate themselves evenly by number between the student groups which will be made up on site. Because the program is focused on empowering youth, we try to give the students a lot of choices right down to how they divide up into groups.
Special Skills Parents: if you have any 'Power Rangers' i.e. Scout Leader types, the park is permanently under construction- always expanding. We try to get participating chaperones to take on one or two small activities of their choosing (fitting their interest and capacity) to improve the African Village/International Development Theme Park. Most of this might have to do with making the park more livable for the students, or making the park function better and fulfill its mission better. The Park is a labour of love you could say. Not one donor dollar paid for building the park- it’s all volunteer labour. So we leave it up to the parents to either participate fully as a normal participant and/or find a special project to do on site that will improve the park. It wouldn’t hurt though to have one parent or teacher who is an idle overseer who is at a set location for anyone who is sick or has a problem to come to.  
 12. What are the night-time activities?
We do a night-time campfire with a marshmallow roast. This is the time for African legends and folklore, African dance and singing.
13. Is it possible to come out and tour the site ahead of time?
Definitely, you can come and tour the site any time. Just call ahead to book an appointment to make sure we're not in the field.
14. What dates are available?
The program runs in two sessions: April 25 through July 31 for schools, scouts, guides and adult groups. Then August 1 to mid-October session runs with some modifications in the facilitators. From November to March HELP runs stand-alone school in-services with one or two facilitators only. Cost of these winter in-services will be reduced.

 © HELP International 2014