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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 2, November/December 2003

Thanks from the Okanagan

by Alice Rees

It is with heartfelt gratitude that the teachers of Central Okanagan have received your many messages of concern and support. They are truly grateful for the generosity of the BCTF. The grants are touching the lives of students and colleagues devastated by the fire.

Teachers responded in the hundreds and became the backbone of the registration facilities of the Red Cross. On the night the fire entered city limits and its potential was obvious, hundreds of teachers simply showed up at the registration centre to volunteer. Red Cross co-ordinators recognized the teachers’ talents and asked that the Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association call for more members to attend training to support their efforts: "Teachers are exceptional at handling forms and people." Within one hour on Friday afternoon, in a city where a third of the population was already evacuated and teachers were on holiday, we had 37 teachers in the COTA boardroom being trained. The following Sunday, with a few hours’ notice, in a city where now nearly half the population was evacuated, we had another 40 teachers training to volunteer as supervisors. When relocation and renewal of evacuation support started, the Red Cross called for more names. Teachers volunteered many hours in many capacities as the events unfolded.

Caring and support have no limits, and I am so proud that the BCTF, with its locals, is playing such a pivotal role for students and teachers. I am thankful for the locals planning partnering activities for our students and those contributing to the fund.

COTA has taken steps to aid our community, students, and colleagues. We have contributed $3,000 to the Red Cross Fire Relief fund, $1,000 to the Food Bank (it was absolutely desperate for donations at the height of the evacuations), $5,000 for ads of thanks and school startup, and $40,000 for interest-free loans to members. We stuffed and distributed 140 backpacks to affected students (local business responded overwhelmingly to our request for donations). The COTA executive moved to contribute $5,000 to the BCTF fund.

In the midst of all this, teachers are welcoming us into their schools in the early morning, at lunch breaks, and after school to discuss withholding their college fees. Momentum is gathering, and it appears that many may be willing to send a strong message to the minister of education.

Alice Rees is president of the Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association.

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