Saskatoon school to sponsor refugee family from Burundi

A Catholic French immersion school in Saskatoon is raising money to sponsor a refugee family from the African country Burundi, where ethnic conflict is flaring up again.

Ecole St. Matthew School kicks off $30K fund-raising campaign today

Students at Ecole St. Matthew School get a briefing on refugees from a member of the Saskatoon Open Door Society. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

A Catholic French immersion school in Saskatoon is raising money to sponsor a refugee family from the African country Burundi, where ethnic conflict is flaring up again.

The effort to raise $30,000 officially launched today at Ecole St. Matthew School.

The principal, Francois Rivard, said there is educational value in this project.

"So they're learning about whether it's conflict or war, or accepting everyone, but this is a very tangible way. What better way to connect real world issues into the classrooms," Rivard explained.

Joining 1000 Schools Challenge

St. Matthew is the first school in the city to take the 1000 Schools Challenge, started by a school in Toronto , which challenged other schools to raise money to bring Syrian refugees to Canada.

A parent, Danielle Schock, heard about the challenge and proposed St. Matthew join in.

"I must admit I did have a Syrian family in mind," Schock said. But after partnering with the migration office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, the school learned about a family of six from Burundi currently living in a refugee camp in the neighbouring country Rwanda.

The family is Christian and French-speaking, with children ages 11, nine, six and a couple of months.

"Because of the 18-month to two-year process [to bring the family to Saskatoon], we felt that it would be a good opportunity for the children to foster [a] relationship with this family and get to know them," Schock said.

I think our principal was trying to show us that refugees aren't just from the places that are shown on the news.- Summer Baier, grade 8 student at Ecole St. Matthew School

She also said the school and diocese hope to "bring the same attention to other areas and conflicts [as Syria] and shorten their wait as well."

Students have a series of fund-raisers in mind, including a virtual food drive, grade 8 student Summer Baier outlined. The students will send a shopping list home, detailing different grocery items and their prices. Parents will be asked to check off their choice of items and donate the cash value.

A talent show and air band is another idea.

Meanwhile, the students seem receptive to the lessons being taught.    

"I think our principal was trying to show us that refugees aren't just from the places that are shown on the news," Baier said.