RIF is one of many initiatives taken on by the 'Young Children - Priority One' Committee.
It started as an American project in 1996 to intro-duce young children to the world of books. The Kiwanis link to the program is through the Jean Dean RIF Alabama Kiwanis Foundation, the largest RIF project in the United States.
In 1997 the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa kicked off, with great determination from Keith McGruer, Ken Nelson and Harold Geller, and the tremendous people power of the Kiwanis Club of Sage, the Connaught Public School RIF program.
Last year the Kiwanis Club of Sage contributed 195 hours and the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa 110 hours of reading time. These figures are based on one-hour timeslots. We help these children respect books, learn the importance of books, and at the very same time we can see their development. Many of these children are from very poor circumstances and many are new Canadians. If you are white in colour, you may be the first white person some of these children have spent time with on a one-to- one basis. These children are only four or five years of age. I was told that in this school of approximately 600 students, less than ten families would be considered middle class. This situation makes it almost impossible to raise funds through a Parent Association to support special events or projects.
In many ways Kiwanis has gone beyond the RIF reading program at Connaught Public School with help in other areas. We collect 'treasures' for the children. These small items are intended for a child up to the age of ten years of age and may include stuffed animals. These treasures are selected by the student as a reward for achievements, special projects or sometimes just to console an unhappy child. We have supplied warm clothing, hats, mitts, neck pieces, boots, running shoes, etc. These items of clothing are not always easy to give out and so they are given out 'on loan', so to speak. Parents are sometimes very sensitive in this area.
Through Art Dowd arrangements were made for buses to take the children on a museum trip this past school year. Scratch pads were obtained through Hap and Barry Nicholds, clowns supplied by Ken Bickley, and Dominic D'Arcy provided the entertainment. Kevin McGrath arranged for author Roch Carrier to come to the school and read his famous 'Hockey Sweater' story to grade four and five students.
I might add here that Roch is a great storyteller and I enjoyed the tale as much as the children. Roch received a thank you note from each and every student and each and every student received a personal reply from Mr. Carrier.
This past June our Kiwanis Club donated $10,000 towards the purchase of new playground equipment. The present play structure, which serves the school and the local community has been condemned and must be replaced.
In December 1999 and June of this year, the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa donated a book to each kindergarten child for them to keep and treasure. It is with great pride that I can say that Kiwanis has done a superb job, but the project is ongoing. School starts in September and we need readers. This project is truly a comprehensive Kiwanis undertaking from its 'hands-on' aspect to the needs of the school and the community.
If you, a family member or friend can spare an hour a week, please contact me. We need you.
Ross Hadwen 225-8179