Anatomy of a Cuppa Change Initiative: Earl Grey Public School Launches Its Second Project

The 2011/2012 school year has begun.  Kids have settled in to their classroom and homework routines.  The Toronto District School Board’s Cross Country qualifiers have been run, so you know October is here.  And school clubs are going full tilt.

This is true, too, of Earl Grey Public School’s Free the Children Club, where I volunteer, not just as the Cuppa Change representative, but also as a parent volunteer.  The FTC Club’s student numbers this year have swelled to 47 – a thrill for the teacher leaders, Ms. Divok and Ms. Mathura.  The kids are interested, engaged, and determined to change the world.  This is the kind of club I like.

Together, we decided to run a second Cuppa Change initiative this 2011/2012 school year.  What excites the kids is having a fundraising method for all the Me to We ideas they would like to make happen.  They have big plans – and sometimes, that requires a budget.  Mostly, it requires volition…  but having a budget doesn’t hurt.

I realized that there was an opportunity for me to blog about the anatomy of a school Cuppa Change initiative – for all those schools out there interested in running their own.

So, over the next school year, I will intermittently write about how we’re going about our Cuppa Change 2011/2012 initiative at Earl Grey.  If you have any questions, of course drop me a line.

Step 1: Once we knew there was desire amongst the Earl Grey teachers and students involved in the FTC Club, we knew what we needed to do: get the permission of the school’s principal, and also, get support from the school’s office staff, who will do much of the initiative’s accounting.

We got green lights from all parties, and looked immediately for an event to ‘launch’ this year’s Cuppa Change initiative.  A great evening for this is Curriculum Night, where parents meet teachers for the first time, and get acquainted with various aspects of their child’s school.

Curriculum Night is usually about a month into the school year, after everyone has settled in, and it presents a unique opportunity to speak to the parents directly.  In general, they’re the ones drinking coffee, so they have an interest in the practical aspects of getting signed up.

At Curriculum Night, we set up two Cuppa Change tables – one at the front door, and one outside the gym.  Student volunteers helped hand out a fair trade order form to every parent stepping through the doors.  This is what they said: “Hello, I’m a student here at Earl Grey, and I’m part of the Free the Children Club.  We’re selling fair trade coffee to fund our international work.  Last year, we earthquake-proofed a school in Haiti.  We want to do something like that again, and we’d love you to order coffee through our club.”

In the gym, after the Principal and Vice-Principal spoke, the FTC Club teachers detailed what the Earl Grey FTC Club was able to do last year: We raised over $3,500, put that money together with previous Earl Grey FTC Clubs’ fundraising (approximately $6400), and were able to earthquake-proof an FTC school in Haiti.  Of course, the response from the crowd was very positive.  It’s great to know that your kids are interested in social justice – and turning that interest into action.

Then I spoke, detailing the following:

  • We are excited to be doing a new Cuppa Change initiative at Earl Grey this year.
  • Cuppa Change’s method is simple: We buy fair trade products at wholesale prices, we sell them at a slight mark-up, aiming for less-than-over-the-counter prices, and we use 100% of the profits to support international development projects.
  • The coffee is excellent, fresh, organic and fair trade.
  • It gets delivered straight to school every two weeks, and your child brings it home in his or her knapsack.
  • This is a chance to help the kids learn about fair trade, international development and Me to We.

My daughter got up told the crowd a short story of what it has meant to her as a student to help other students in Haiti.  And then we were done, and off to various classrooms to meet her teachers.

By the end of the evening, we had distributed hundreds of Cuppa Change order forms, we had offers from two parents to volunteer, and we had two Cuppa Change orders in our hands.  Over the next few weeks, we hope to have many, many more.

Stay tuned for updates.  Running a Cuppa Change initiative in your child’s school is easy and fulfilling, for parent volunteers, teachers, and students alike.  Together, we can help students realize their big plans and change the world.

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