Reaching Out to Those in Need – Outreach at CDNIS

By Maureen Tai, CISPA Ex-officio

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the spirit of service is as strong as ever in the CDNIS community. Outreach, the effort to bring services or information to people where they live or spend time, and meaningful engagement in outreach activities has long been embedded in the CDNIS culture.

Matthew Schulte, CDNIS Coordinator of Local and Global Engagement, points out that one of the key tenets of the school’s mission statement is “fostering meaningful participation and service” in students. Since joining CDNIS in August 2019, Matthew has been exploring ways to help staff, teachers and students adopt a broader, deeper and more integrated approach to service and experiential learning. “I’ve been impressed by the busy, energetic and vibrant community here,” Matthew observes, adding that he finds CDNIS parents to be “very engaged” in outreach opportunities.

Funding, Mentorship, Advice

Nowhere is this parent engagement better evidenced than in The Canadian International School Parents’ Association’s (CISPA) Outreach Committee, this year headed by the energetic Vanessa Yu-Liang. Comprised of resourceful and dedicated CDNIS parent volunteers, the Outreach Committee’s mandate is to provide support – in the form of funding, mentorship, manpower or advice – to outreach projects initiated by CDNIS staff, students or members of the parent community. According to the tireless Simone Matrundola, the current CISPA Chairperson, the committee is “always excited to support students, teachers and parents in their charitable endeavours. We strive to encourage students to use the resources we provide wisely and to be creative in their solutions.”

Over the 2018/2019 school year, a total of 18 projects were supported by CISPA with funding of over HK$57,000 disbursed to student-founded and student-led clubs such as RESPECT (Refugee Education Support Program) and Reading Tree; charities such as Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF and Box of Hope; and to enhance students’ outreach experiences in Grade 6 (PYP Exhibition) and Grade 7 (MYP “Exposure Experiences” programme). Projects must have a charitable, service, sustainable or environmentally conscious element. Applications for support are made on a downloadable form found on our website, allowing for a streamlined and efficient approval process.

Support for CDNIS Students and Parents

Participation in the Outreach Committee is also satisfying for parent volunteers. In the previous two years, Dilek Incoglu, a lower school parent, coordinated eye-opening refugee walks at Chungking Mansions with the Centre for Refugees. Dilek said she was motivated to join the Outreach Committee to “help different causes that I believe in, meet like-minded people and to have the flexibility of when and how to contribute.” When asked if the committee fulfilled her expectations, she confirmed, “Absolutely. It is very motivating, and I am so glad and thankful to be part of this community!”

CDNIS students and families participating in a Refugee Walk organised by CISPA Outreach.

Social protests and school closures made it near impossible to fully launch and implement most of CDNIS’ and CISPA’s ambitious plans for outreach during the last school year. Nevertheless, these challenging times didn’t stop Bailey Cherry, a Grade 10 student, from founding reBooked, a non-profit social enterprise, in August 2019. Now into its second year of operation, reBooked collects second-hand/donated children’s books and resells them through an online website (www.rebooked-hk.com), promoting a circular economy in an oft-neglected commodity. “reBooked is such an inspiring success story,” said Maureen Tai, former Co-Chair of the Outreach Committee, “With passion and determination, and by harnessing the power of collaboration – family, friends, her school and wider community – Bailey has managed to turn her visionary idea into reality.”

The idea for reBooked arose when Bailey discovered that there wasn’t any readily accessible place to donate books that she and her sister had outgrown. “[My family and I] found a gap in the market,” said Bailey, “and an opportunity to offer what we thought were value-added services.” After some market research, the tech-savvy teen set up an online shop and started collecting book donations, using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to spread the word. “CDNIS was a big help in the early stages,” remembers Bailey. “I consulted with Dr. [John] Turner (Director of Digital Innovation) and Mr. Schulte who provided valuable guidance. The school library was one of our earliest donors, and CISPA has also come on board to support reBooked [with funding] for which I am so grateful!”

Bailey Cherry, founder of “Rebooked”, received funding from CISPA Outreach.

With accomplishments under her belt such as winning the Kids4Kids ‘Action for a Cause’ competition in 2019, collecting over 20,000 books from over 500 families, reselling over 8,000 books and recycling another 4,000 books to other charities to date, reBooked is poised to go from strength to strength. CDNIS and CISPA are proud to be able to count themselves as supporters. As Pamela Cherry, Bailey’s mum, notes: “The one big thing that [we have] witnessed … is the kindness of the community. We were often blown away by how people are happy to help out and support a cause, given the opportunity.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how deeply connected and interdependent we are, locally and globally. It has also revealed the great need that continues to exist in our marginalised communities. Through volunteer groups like the CISPA Outreach Committee, parents can support their children to become the compassionate, innovative and service- oriented leaders of tomorrow, and simultaneously fulfil their own altruistic aspirations. So far in the 2020/2021 school year, we have continued working with the Upper and Lower School student councils on various initiatives (Step Challenge, Christmas Book Drive, UNICEF Food Drive). We will also be heading the Home of Love Christmas campaign. Keep an eye on the Flash and our website and CISPA Parents Pin Board. We are always looking for new initiatives to support and welcome your ideas and applications. If you’d like to find out more about how you can be involved, get in touch by emailing outreach@cispa.hk.