Laurier SOS gives back

20 Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) students of the Students Offering Support (SOS) organization ventured to the city of San Pedro, Columbia, in the Toledo district of southern Belize to aid in the erection of a new high school and water well.

SOS raised $116,600 this past year via student-led exam-aid sessions with an admission cost of a $20 donation to SOS. This was a great success for the organization in comparison to the $100,000 raised the previous year.

“The whole point of SOS is to raise money here in universities while raising marks,” said Klara Raic, second-year Laurier student and trip participant.
Proceeds raised by SOS are entirely used to sponsor community organizations in South America. This year, SOS donated $30,000 to Columbia River Cooperative, a non-profit organization in Belize committed to protecting the environment and people of Toledo and promoting education in sustainable agriculture.

“Not only are they teaching the basic curriculum, they’re also taking initiatives to teach agriculture and business subjects,” said Basia Frankiewicz, co-president of SOS.

In the village the volunteers were working in, a high school did not previously exist. The local students had to venture far outside of town to receive secondary schooling.

With simply attending school being so difficult a large portion of the youth in San Pedro Columbia do not graduate high school and therefore don’t advance to post-secondary education.

Because most of the youth will remain within the village, the Columbia River Cooperative centre for learning will teach students how to properly conduct agriculture in a more sustainable manner than the traditional slash and burn technique.

“That’s one of the initiatives that we as the SOS executive team fell in love with; that they’re trying to help develop the community,” said Frankiewicz.

When the WLU students arrived, the foundation of the school had already been laid by participating contractors. It was the students’ task to build the brick walls, which are filled with a hurricane-proof cement mixture. This allows the school to double as a hurricane shelter for the village.

When the students left, the well was finished entirely and the school was ready for roofing.

The Belize trip was one of three that SOS members participated in last year. The group also did work in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
“For me, it was extremely life changing. I would definitely recommend it for people who are also interested in this,” said Frankiewicz.

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