Giving Back to Make a Lasting Impact

Rapid Relief Fund

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been so heartened to see how members of the SMUS community have stepped up to make a difference.

Donations of time, energy, skills, resources and money from alumni, parents, students and teachers continue to have a positive impact on the lives of so many people on Vancouver Island and around the world.

“It’s good to be in a position to help amid the chaos and do our part to take care of this place,” says Junior School parent Karen Jawl ’87-’95. She and her family, including her brother Robert Jawl ’00, helped launch of the Rapid Relief Fund in Greater Victoria alongside the Victoria Foundation and the Times Colonist newspaper. The fund, which has raised more than $5 million since it began on March 20, has helped provide emergency relief to local registered charities.

Now the Jawl family has also focused their attention on a supportive meal program to help local families and local restaurants.

“There are so many kids who have been affected by this, and locally that impact is being felt by families who access the Greater Victoria School District’s meal programs,” Karen says.

With help from the school district, the Jawl Foundation and the Rapid Relief Fund, nearly 10,000 meals (lunches and dinners) are provided each week to families through the Feeding Families in School District 61 program.

Funds are distributed by the district to local restaurants, which make the meals. The meals are then distributed to families that the district has identified as being most in need. Karen says that the school district and local restaurants do a great job making every dollar go far to help children and their families.

If there are any SMUS family-owned restaurants that would like to get involved in future weeks, please email Karen Jawl. Financial donations to support expanding the Feeding Families program can be made directly through the Greater Victoria School District’s website.

‘Playing Our Small Part’

A pair of alumni siblings have also made local students the focus of their initiative during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jasper Johnston ’16 and Aysha Emmerson ’18 recently launched the Collaborative-Video Individualized Development Student Support Network (or Co-VID SSN for short), which digitally connects Kindergarten to Grade 12 students with a university peer supporter to offer support in a variety of areas.

The goal is “to help ease the burden on parents and educators in Victoria, BC during the social distancing requirements arising from the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads their website. “As students ourselves, with a deep appreciation for education and a belief in the power of youth supporting youth, we were inspired to use our skills, resources, and relationships to play our small part in this crisis.”

During Spring Break, SMUS faculty played their small part in helping frontline workers on Vancouver Island. Teachers from our Junior, Middle and Senior Schools made face shields for health-care workers using the school’s 3D printers and laser cutters, in cooperation with colleagues from Glenlyon Norfolk School.

“Anything we can do to help contribute to preserving public health, we want to do it. If these masks help keep one person safe, we want to support them,” says George Floyd, Middle School technology teacher.

Shara Campsall, Assistant Director of Advancement, recently shared an amazing story about the Liao family that donated more than 10,000 face masks, 50 isolation units and protective clothing that have gone to help health-care workers on Vancouver Island.

The SMUS community is also made of many alumni and parents working in the health care and medicine fields in various capacities. 

One such person is Dr. Josef Penninger, a Senior School parent and researcher at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Penninger is leading an international team looking to find a treatment capable of stopping early infection of COVID-19.

We are so proud of the work our community members continue to do to keep people healthy and safe, and to lessen the impact on the people around them.

“I think one of the really special things we’ve all seen these last few weeks is just how caring our community is,” adds Karen Jawl. “It’s been so heartwarming to see all the gestures of kindness and generosity. In times like this, it’s so nice to see these acts in our community; it gives everyone a sense of comfort in a time of uncertainty.”

If you know of someone in our community who is making a difference, please let us know.

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