PA’s Got Talent for helping

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Nora Lecouter, left, and Payton Walters, two Grade 5 students at Princess Alexandra School, stand in front of a three-metre-high drawing of a well that will keep track of donations to help build a real well in Africa.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Nora Lecouter, left, and Payton Walters, two Grade 5 students at Princess Alexandra School, stand in front of a three-metre-high drawing of a well that will keep track of donations to help build a real well in Africa.

A group of youngsters in Hay River – a Grade 5 class at Princess Alexandra School – has taken it upon themselves to raise money for a community development project in Africa.

The class has started to raise what it hopes will be $2,000 to dig a community well in the country of Burkino Faso, including through a talent show on Feb. 10 called PA’s Got Talent.

The children want to help a community far away, especially other children.

“Because I feel bad for the kids that have to walk five kilometres to get water, and that water is not even clean,” said 10-year-old Payton Walters.

“It would be nice for everyone to be equal and have the same amount of water and have good clean water like everyone else in the world,” said Nora Lecouter, who is also 10 years old.

They and their classmates are raising money for the Ryan’s Well Foundation, which they found out about when their teacher read them a story.

Jennifer Tweedie recalled she wanted to teach her class about leadership, and she got the students to consider who is a leader and what makes a leader.

“And you constantly saw them talking about prime ministers or larger-than-life adults,” she said. “So I wanted to read them a story that brought them the idea that they too as kids could be leaders. So that’s where the Ryan Hreljac story came from.”

That is the Ryan in Ryan’s Well Foundation.

As a child growing up in Ontario, he also heard about the lack of clean water in parts of Africa and he set out to raise some money, which eventually turned into thousands of dollars and led to the creation of Ryan’s Well Foundation.

“It’s a fantastic story,” said Tweedie. “I found it inspirational. I just thought it would be a nice story just to show the kids that children can be leaders, as well.”

However, she never imagined her students would launch their own fundraising campaign.

“After I read the story, they were just so excited,” she said. “Their eyes lit up. They immediately said we need to meet him. We need to do this, too.”

They got in touch via Skype with Hreljac, who has now finished university and is working for the foundation that bears his name.

Nora Lecouter said he told the class to have fun when they’re fundraising.

“Because it’s called fundraising,” she said.

Tweedie said her students decided as a class to take on the big fundraising project.

The students had to write letters of application to be part of the class committee to organize the initiative.

Members of the committee, including main organizer Addison Korotash, have written letters seeking sponsorship and have done a lot of the groundwork for the talent show.

They have been working on the project since October.

The fundraising is focused on the Feb. 10 talent show, which will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. in the Princess Alexandra School gym.

The judges for the talent show will be Mayor Brad Mapes, Coun. Kandis Jameson and Chris Aitken, a retired teacher.

Classmates Walters and Lecouter are going to be the masters of ceremony of the show and are also going to perform.

“I’m going to be performing a dance with my friends,” said Payton. “It’s like a cheer dance.”

Lecouter said she is going to be singing with her BFF.

While the Grade 5 class started the fundraising project, the talent show will feature 20 acts from the whole school from students in Grades 4 to 7.

Tweedie said there will be singers, dancers, comedians, ventriloquists and puppeteers.

She said the talent show will be fun, but there will also be a serious humanitarian purpose.

Money will be raised through admission and through food sales at intermission.

“Everything that’s raised at the talent show will go towards the fund where we’re trying to raise that $2,000,” said Tweedie. “And then we will donate that to the Ryan’s Well Foundation.”

The teacher said she is extremely proud of her class for the project.

“They’re a very empathetic group of kids already,” she said. “It makes your heart grow. It inspires you every day for the things they come up with and the energy they bring to it.”

After the talent show, the students will continue raising money in other ways, such as bake sales.

Tweedie said it is hoped that members of the community will support the fundraising initiative, even if they don’t have children at Princess Alexandra School.

Payton Walters also said she hopes a lot of people will come to the talent show to help the cause.

“But I hope they don’t just do it because it’s their kids donating,” she said. “I hope they actually learn something about it, too.”