Archive for February 2010
For many Islanders, Haiti has been a destination for missionary and relief work for many years, and the news of the devastation left in the aftermath of the earthquake in Port au Prince in January touched them deeply. The same was true within the Holland College family. Over the years, staff and students at Holland College have consistently shown that they understand that we are all part of a greater community than is bounded by the shores of our island – that we are indeed part of a global community through which we, our families and our friends travel. News of the disaster automatically put people into fundraising mode.
Staff and students at the Tourism and Culinary Centre immediately began planning Help Haiti, a fundraising dinner and silent auction. Everyone pitched in, including vendors, who provided the food free of charge. The evening featured a distinctly Haitian menu (with the spiciness toned down for our northern palates), and a presentation by Epheta and Don Norman. Epheta is a Haitian now living on P.E.I. Proceeds from the evening went to ShelterBox, an organization that provides temporary housing and supplies to disaster-stricken areas.
The plan was to raise $15,000, which would purchase 15 ShelterBoxes for Haiti. By the end of the evening, with guests digging deep into their purses and pockets, almost $16,400 was raised. Considering that this amount will be matched by the Federal government, this is a sizable donation indeed.
In addition to the money raised by the gang at Tourism and Culinary Centre, staff and students across the province donated their time and talents to the cause. The Aerospace Centre in Summerside got in on the act when Wood Manufacturing – Cabinetmaking Learning Manager Graham Hicken sported a necklace and earrings that he won in a Haiti Casual Days draw. So bewitching was Mr. Hicken that staff and students begged him to complete the ensemble with more appropriate attire. Never one to shy away from a bit of fun, Graham challenged everyone to come up with $500 for Haitian relief if they wanted to see him in full regalia…including a dress and makeup (if you’ve seen Graham, you’ll know that a hair-do was out of the question).
As a result, by using his natural assets for the betterment of others, Graham was able to raise just over $730. In addition to participating in this fundraiser, students at the Aerospace Centre went all out, busking at lunch times and holding breakfast and lunch fundraisers, bringing in an additional $295, which has been sent to an orphanage in Haiti.
In total, students across the province contributed almost $1,970 for Haiti. Two staff casual Friday fundraisers brought in another $2,770.
A concerted effort was made to get all of the funds to the designated organizations prior to the Federal government’s matching deadline.
And the fundraising continues. Three Events Management students are organizing a culture fair to take place 6 to 9 p.m., March 26, in the cafeteria at the Tourism and Culinary Centre. Kristy Morris, Emily Miner and Megan Bruce are currently seeking sponsors for the event, which will include Holland College students from The Bahamas, Bermuda, China, India, and Russia, as well as Canadians. The students will be a celebration of the students’ culture through food, music, dance, and arts and crafts. A portion of the proceeds from this event will be donated to the cause.
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the western coast of Haiti. Buildings in the capital city, Port au Prince, collapsed, killing thousands and trapping thousands more. The images of the devastation and suffering that we have seen on television and the web have affected all of us. The Holland College community has responded with compassion and commitment, and fund raisers have sprung up on campuses all across the province. My next few postings will be about those efforts.
Hotdogs of Hope for Haiti
In spite of parents’ best efforts to minimize their young children’s exposure to the news coverage, it is almost impossible to avoid entirely. So it is no surprise that children in the Holland College Child Development Centre wanted to reach out to help children in Haiti. When early childhood educators at the centre came up with a unique idea – Hotdogs of Hope for Haiti, the little ones were excited about being able to help the relief effort. Family and friends were invited to drop in over lunch time one Friday to purchase hotdogs and artwork that the children created especially for the event.
Marlene Harding, who spearheaded the project, said the event was an opportunity to teach the children about social responsibility.
“As a staff we believe that it’s important to build a sense of ‘global community’ in our children. We want to help them develop a spirit of giving, love and compassion, and to know how to use that to reach out and offer hope to those who are in need. It’s all about loving our neighbours. Some people live very far away – like in a place called Haiti – but they are our neighbours all the same,” she explains.
Canadian Red Cross representative Margaret MacKenzie visited the child care centre the day before the fundraiser to talk to the children about the Red Cross, emergency preparedness, and about the needs of the people of Haiti.
I once heard a children’s writer say that before he sends a manuscript to his publisher, he reads it to a group of children to see how they react. He uses what he calls the Velcro test to measure the story’s ability to engage the children. If the children begin fiddling with the Velcro on their sneakers while he is reading to them, they’ve lost interest.
Margaret and her presentation certainly pass the Velcro test.
“Can anyone tell me what happens in an earthquake,” she asks.
Immediately there is a sea of little arms waving frantically.
“The buildings fall down,” one boy says gravely.
“Yes, that’s right, sometimes buildings do fall down.” Margaret points to a small girl.
“And sometimes people die,” the girl says.
“That’s true,” Margaret acknowledges, “sometimes people do die in earthquakes.”
Another little girl raises her hand, and Margaret points to her.
“The earth’s plates rub together and pressure builds up between them,” she says. “When the pressure gets to be too big, it makes an earthquake.”
While we’re all still trying to process the fact that this five-year-old child has given us a succinct and pretty accurate definition of what causes an earthquake, another little guy’s hand shoots up.
“Yes?” says Margaret.
“I’ve been to Moncton,” he announces proudly.
Ah well, that’s kids for you!
The next day, the children’s families flocked to the centre to participate in the much anticipated Hotdogs of Hope for Haiti event. Sales were brisk, and in total, the children raised almost $750 for the Red Cross.
That’s a substantial donation from the small group of children, families, and staff of the Holland College Child Development Centre, and one that will be welcomed by the Red Cross as they continue their work in Haiti.
As for the children, they’ve learned a little bit about earthquakes, emergency preparedness, and donating time and money to those less fortunate in their time of need.
Oh, and also a little bit more about Moncton!
Andrew Dibling, the Learning Manager for the Wind Turbine Technology program, invited me to go on site when he and his students reinstalled a wind turbine in Brackley recently. The wind turbine has been a landmark on the Brackley Point Road for more than 15 years, so its absence over the past few months had been noticed by residents of the area. It was erected as part of the project to build an energy-efficient model home, but had not been serviced for many years.
Last March, Andrew and his students removed the turbine at the request of the property’s new owners, who were very excited at the prospect of getting the machine up and running again.
“Some of the parts on the turbine were so old that they are no longer being manufactured,” Andrew told me. “We had to get some pieces custom-made.”
The students in last year’s class worked on the turbine over the final weeks of their program, with this year’s students taking over in September.
It was no small feat to get the turbine off its tower, and equally as challenging to put it back up. A crane must be used to hoist the turbine to the top of the 80-foot tower, where two technicians guide it onto its base and bolt it down. The height is dizzying, and with wind chill factors driving the temperature down, the consequent bundling up against the cold didn’t make things any easier.
The turbine had been taken to the Wind Turbine Technology program’s location in Slemon Park, Summerside, for the maintenance, so the blades had been removed. Once the machine arrived back to Brackley, new blades were fitted onto it before the crane could raise it to the top of the tower.
The procedure took several hours, but provided students from the program with an exceptional opportunity to experience what it’s like out in the field (literally, in this case).
Computer Information Systems students are required to complete an extensive application development project in the second year of the program. The project teaches them about designing applications for a client server environment and gives them hands-on experience with concepts acquired during previous courses. It’s their magnum opus, the culmination of all of their hard work, and it can be both exhilarating and exhausting. But in spite of the sometimes overwhelming amount of work involved, students Paige Palmer, Graham Smith and Jock Allen were assigned a project they couldn’t keep their paws off.
For almost 10 years, the Cat Action Team has been caring for colonies of stray, feral, and barn cats across Prince Edward Island. The non-profit, registered charitable organization works to promote and sustain a humane, non-lethal method of controlling and stabilizing the feral, stray and barn cat population of P.E.I. Since its inception, CAT has spayed, neutered, and provided medical care for more than 5,000 cats. The organization also attempts to provide food and shelter for the animals whenever possible through its network of volunteers.
Last fall, Elizabeth Schoales, president of the Cat Action Team, approached CIS instructor Gerald Caissy with an interesting challenge: to provide a web-based, interactive, searchable database of cats and cat colonies across the province. The database would contain medical information about each cat, and information about the location and population of approximately 1,000 colonies.
Veterinarians from the Atlantic Veterinary College and in private clinics provide medical services to the cats, tattooing each cat post-surgery and recording the information in a spreadsheet. Elizabeth wanted to provide them with a better method of storing the information, one that would enable searching through a variety of different criteria, which this web application would allow very effectively via the Internet.
“The database will store all the information for each colony,” she explained. “It will be able to generate reports that will enable us to track diseases and pinpoint which colonies are most problematic.”
She meets with the students on a weekly basis, and is excited about what they have created in the nine weeks that they have been working with her.
“They’ve taken a fuzzy idea and turned it into something,” she said.
Gerald estimates that the database and web application would have cost several thousand dollars, a price that would have been prohibitive for an organization like the Cat Action Team.
“CAT would not have been able to afford to pay to have a database like this created,” Elizabeth said. “We are so grateful to the students for taking on this project.”
As for the students, they say the project is an invaluable learning experience.
“We have to create documentation and develop user manuals,” Graham explained. “Keeping track of things is crucial on a project like this.”
Paige agreed, adding that it’s important that all members of the team are on the same wavelength.
“Good communication is a vital part of the project,” she said. “So are organizational skills, time management and problem solving.”
The third student on the team, Jock, said the team-based approach was effective in the development of the application.
“What is interesting about this assignment is that each member of our group brings different strengths and traits to the project,” he noted.
The myth that people working in the information technology sector are closeted away churning out code in isolation is quickly dispelled when students work on a project such as this. The reality is that most IT specialists need to have good communication skills so that they can take that “fuzzy idea” and turn it into an effective tool to manage data.
Gerald said the project gives the students real-life experience in their chosen field.
“Students in the CIS program learn a multitude of technical and non-technical skills, an opportunity such as this allows them to blend all past personal experiences with newly acquired knowledge and skills in order to test the waters before graduating and entering the computing industry of P.E.I. I am very confident in all my students, and know that the CAT project in particular is being resourced with committed individuals possessing solid skill sets,” he said.
The CIS students aren’t the only group at Holland College who will be working with CAT. In February, Transitions students will be building shelters for cat colonies during their rotation in the Carpentry program.
It seems appropriate that with the Olympics just around the corner, this week’s story would be about an Olympian – in this case, Jennifer Bryant, a member of the gold and silver medal winning Culinary Youth Team Canada delegation that went to the Culinary Olympics held in Erfurt, Germany in 2008.
For two consecutive years, The Culinary Institute of Canada was selected to put together the team that would represent Canada at the Culinary Olympics after its students excelled in national competitions. Prior to the 2004 Olympics, teams were selected from various provinces without a competition, and P.E.I. was never invited to put the national junior team together. It was in the inaugural year of a competition selection process that the rest of the country would see just how well our students could perform. And Jennifer, 22, is no exception.
Jennifer graduated from the Culinary Arts program at the CIC. In addition to participating in the 2008 Culinary Olympics, she was part of the youth team that competed in Scot Hot, an international competition in Scotland the previous winter and won Grand Gold – Best in the World.
Following the 2008 Olympics, Jennifer returned to The Culinary Institute of Canada to complete the second year of the Applied Degree in Culinary Operations. She graduated from the two-year program in 2009.
The World Junior Culinary Exchange with South Africa has two components. In late May, the Canadian delegation will host the South African Junior Chefs and their mentors at the national conference in Windsor, Ontario. Then, in 2011, the Canadian delegation will travel to South Africa to take part in the World Cooks Tour for Hunger from August 20th to 27th.
Jennifer, who now works as a research and development technician in Canada’s Smartest Kitchen, the research arm of The Culinary Institute of Canada, was chosen to represent the Atlantic Region after submitting a 500-word essay detailing why she should represent the region and what she felt she could contribute to the group, along with three letters of reference.
“I think it’s going to be an amazing experience,” she said. “A friend of mine went on a similar exchange to Norway, and he suggested that I should apply. My experience at the Culinary Olympics really opened my eyes as to what’s out there and the door to many more culinary experiences.”
She’s also excited about the fact that the exchange includes the World Cooks Tour for Hunger, an event which will bring chefs from all over the world to South Africa to raise money to feed the poor and underprivileged.
Chef Allan William, President of the PEI Chefs Association and a research chef in Canada’s Smartest Kitchen, said Jennifer’s selection to represent Atlantic Canada is a natural progression, given her approach to her profession.
“As the president of the PEI Chefs Association, I am very proud of Jennifer in all of her accomplishments. She is simply one of those juniors who has risen to the occasion many times over. Through branch events, competitions, fund raising dinners and many other culinary related activities, Jennifer has always been there with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn new things. I wish her the best of luck in this endeavour,” he said.
I’ll keep you posted on how Jennifer’s adventure unfolds.