Meet CMAT Volunteer Jeewan Chanicka!

April 6-12, 2014 is National Volunteer Week.

Meet some of the inspiring CMAT volunteers who help us fulfil our missions in communities around the world!

CMAT Volunteer Jeewan Chanicka is an elementary principal in the York Region District School Board, in Ontario. He has helped coordinate the Helping Hands Fundraising Project within the  YRDSB on behalf of CMAT!

CMAT Volunteer Jeewan Chanicka is an elementary principal in the York Region District School Board, in Ontario. He has helped coordinate the Helping Hands Fundraising Project within the YRDSB on behalf of CMAT!

April 10, 2014 – Jeewan Chanicka – Fundraising

As an educator, Jeewan Chanicka wanted to extend the work he was doing with CMAT into the students’  learning which was happening in his classroom. The Helping Hands project was born early on in CMAT’s existence and through this, students from across the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) engaged in learning which resulted in them assisting children and families around the world.  “With the growing partnership between CMAT and our schools, and through the support of our Inclusive Schools and Community Services, Helping Hands has been made a system-wide initiative across the YRDSB,” states Jeewan.  

“Our work allows us to work with CMAT to assist and learn from families and children from around the world including places like Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Japan, Haiti and the Philippines,” Jeewan remarks. “Through our efforts, schools across YRDSB have had the opportunity to interact and learn the collective capacity we have to make a difference in the world.”

Jeewan recalls his most memorable CMAT experience which took place in early 2005. Shortly after the tsunami struck numerous nations around the Indian Ocean, 25 schools came together and engaged their students in learning, by helping them to understand what had happened and how they could help. “We collected almost $80 000 for CMAT that year to support children and families in several countries. One of the unique things that we appreciated about CMAT was the ability to directly connect with children and families in those countries.”  Many of the YRDSB students wrote letters. What they didn’t expect was what they got in return.
“One day we were sent a picture from children in Sri Lanka holding a huge poster saying, “Thank You Ashton Meadows Public School!”. It was an incredible moment for our students. Still, and even more powerful, was a gift that some girls in Indonesia sent. Their school in Indonesia had about 500 girls, and about half of them died in the tsunami. Many of the students were living in tents on the street. They were so touched by our support that they made us key chains with “(Banda) Aceh” sewn into it. The moment we received them, I remembered feeling so very overwhelmed, and tears came with that.”

Often, people who have been affected in such catastrophes are viewed through the lens of pity and sadness. This simple gesture was a powerful reminder to both the students and staff of YRDSB to instead, observe the resiliency, the strength, and the ability to move on despite such difficulties. “It was also a critical reminder that this work is not about going out there to ‘save’ others, but instead – to realize that we are sharing with others because of the privileges we enjoy, and that one day, it may be us who need their help. “

Jeewan Chanicka is an elementary school Principal at Aldergrove Public School in the York Region District School Board. He graduated with his BA with honours in Individualized Studies at York University with a focus on Restorative Practices and (culturally appropriate forms of) Mediation. He completed his BEd at the University of Toronto and his Masters Degree in Education at York University.

In 2006, Jeewan was awarded an international award from the Canadian Education Partnership based in Washington D.C for his work on participatory democracy as a framework for student engagement. Most recently, in 2013, he was a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award.  Jeewan has worked with the United Nations University of Peace to develop a curriculum framework around Peace Education for North American and South Asian learning networks. His work over the past 20 years has been focused on Equity and Social Justice.  Over the years, the Helping Hands Project has raised over $250,000 for a variety of CMAT projects.

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