- BC Games
West Van's service superheroes at Collingwood School
By Rachel Davidson
Between overwhelming amounts of homework, the challenges of adolescence and the pressures of post-secondary decision-making, high school is already stressful enough – yet three standouts in Collingwood School’s 40-student Round Square service club have found a way to excel both in the classroom and community.
The Outlook recently chatted with Chaeri Lee, Tatiana Mawani and Lexi Macdonald: altruistic all-stars who regularly help those around them in every possible capacity.
For Lee, a rising Grade 12 student, magnanimity runs in the family. Victoria, her older sister, was heavily involved in Round Square and Habitat for Humanity during her time at Collingwood, and Lee happily picked up where Victoria left off. Aside from her active roles in the science club, alpine club and West Vancouver Symphonic Band, Lee regularly volunteers at the Vancouver Art Gallery and acts as Collingwood’s Round Square steward, a multifaceted position that keeps her busy organizing events, making promotional videos, and updating hallway bulletin boards.
This past July, Lee broadened her sphere of influence by travelling to India for a month-long service sojourn. In a small northern community near Tibet, she helped transport bricks for the construction of new school dormitories and taught local children everything from drawing perspective to the science behind thunder and lightning.
Although the work was often exhausting, Lee was determined to persevere and learn the true meaning of applied compassion.
“My goal before the trip was... [to] learn how to interact with people on an eye-to-eye level,” she explains.
Thanks to her open mind and steady work ethic, success came naturally: “I felt that I was really making an impact on the community... I really felt like they perceived me as their friend.”
Macdonald, Lee’s older yet similarly selfless peer, also harbours a fierce dedication to service both here on the North Shore and abroad. While maintaining admirable grades and participating on Collingwood’s rowing team and senior wind ensemble, Macdonald somehow found the extra time and energy to fundraise at bake sales and car washes, participate in the AIDS Walk for Life, mentor at East Vancouver’s Thunderbird elementary, help at soup kitchens, clean up shorelines and work with Habitat for Humanity. You name it, she’s probably done it.
Expanding beyond the realm of local service, Macdonald has volunteered in Belize, Mexico, Costa Rica, Kenya and India, both with Round Square and on her own initiative. Living and working in each rural neighbourhood, she helped build new schools and assisted at family orphanages.
Macdonald was initially nervous about her outsider status, but found the locals, especially the children, welcoming and inclusive: “[I] didn’t feel like a tourist, but part of the community.”
Fostering a sense of community through service is also key for Mawani, who grew up in an Ismaili household that always valued the gift of giving: “It has been part of my family and now my life. Helping the less fortunate is something I consider the duty of humankind.”
After participating in Vancouver’s World Partnership Walk with her family, Mawani was inspired to take the reins and assemble the first team for Collingwood School, which she has led three years in a row. Her earnest efforts across several fundraisers made Collingwood the highest-earning school team in B.C. at the 2012 walk, raising a total of $12,800. Thanks to the partnership between the Aga Khan Development Network and the Canadian International Development Agency, every dollar contributed will be matched between four- and nine-fold, meaning that over $48,000 will go straight to aid for the Third World.
Tatiana speaks highly yet humbly of the experience: “We created team spirit, and unity within the school community... I felt good knowing I had done my best, and that I had made a small difference and played my part towards humanity.”
The World Partnership Walk is just the tip of the iceberg for this stellar student. In 2010, she co-founded the Star Girls program, which as she describes “aims to build confidence and teach nutrition skills to boys and girls Grades 4 to 7 who attend an inner-city school in Burnaby.” She also regularly volunteers with Ismaili Youth and the Ismaili Walk, and spends time at West Vancouver’s Inglewood Care Centre alongside Macdonald and Lee.
Especially memorable for Mawani was the once-in-a-lifetime experience of meeting the Queen of England as one of four Collingwood delegates at the 2011 Round Square Conference.
Armed with boundless energy and a heartfelt passion for non-profits, each of these young women plans to continue on the charitable path they’ve chosen. Lee will reprise her leadership role within Collingwood’s Round Square club while she applies to universities this fall. Macdonald is on her way to study global development at Queen’s University, and eventually aims to work at a humanitarian organization such as Free the Children. And Mawani will attend UBC’s Sauder School of Business, where she intends to organize a student team for next year’s World Partnership Walk.
How do these Good Samaritans do it all? Motivation comes effortlessly, for as Macdonald professes, volunteer work is its own reward.
“The work that I’m doing will help them in the future. You could see the progress... Making someone else smile, even if it’s just a little difference [in their lives] – that makes me happy,” she affirms.
And if past performance is any indication of forthcoming success, Lee, Macdonald and Mawani are sure to inspire smiles wherever they go.