British Columbia

Kamloops high school students turn city banners into new backpacks for Guatemalan children

Backpacks filled with hygiene products, school supplies

March 04, 2018

Grade 12 students fill backpacks they made with hygiene products, school supplies and toys. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Some old canvas banners from downtown Kamloops are getting a new life in Guatemala — as backpacks for children.

A group of Grade 12 students from two high schools in Kamloops are off to Central America for spring break for a volunteer trip. Sahali Secondary teacher Joanne Simpson has been taking students to Guatemala since 2010, but this is the first time they've taken handmade donations.

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"I think it gives a tangible element to the trip," Simpson said.

"It gives the students something that they can prepare and offer to the people when they get there."

Students from Sahali Secondary and Westsyde Secondary in Kamloops have been sewing drawstring backpacks out of old banners. (Tammy Ferris)

Tammy Ferris, a textiles teacher at Westsyde Secondary School, came up with the idea to upcycle old banners.

"If you're ever going downtown, you'll see those beautiful colourful banners that say downtown Kamloops," she told CBC's Jenifer Norwell.

She called up the local business improvement association and asked if they'd be willing to donate some old banners to the schools. Ferris said they gave her a "whole bucketful."

Ferris then taught her students how to sew backpacks from the banners and, voila, durable, water-resistant drawstring backpacks for kids in need were created. 

Backpacks, made from old banners that once hung in downtown Kamloops, will be given to children on a volunteer trip to Guatemala. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

In addition to the handmade backpacks, the students have filled them with hygiene products, school supplies and toys like soccer balls and skipping ropes.

"Things like toothbrushes and toothpaste, we don't even think about being able to have that stuff, but the kids in Guatemala, they might feel really fortunate to be gifted those things," said student Renee Bussey.

The students CBC spoke to were grateful for the experience, and excited to be able to hand out the backpacks once they get to Guatemala later this month. 

"Realizing we can make a difference, even if we're just 16 high school students travelling, we can make a difference, and it is being recognized, it is so cool," Emily Johnson Holstein said. 

"Having a goal to prepare for, it means a lot," said student Alex Bepple. "It's cool to have an impact on the world like that."

Some of the students with the backpacks they've made to take to Guatemala. (Tammy Ferris)

With files from Jenifer Norwell

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