By Lyonel Doherty
Oliver Elementary School students are learning a valuable lesson that the world doesn’t revolve around them.
In fact, it has little to do with them and more to do with others who need their help.
And they’re learning this on a fast-moving assembly line outside the classroom.
“I like that I’m helping people,” one girl said, adding the only drawback is the difficulty scooping the product.
She was one of several students lined up on either side of the assembly line, filling buckets with flakes of dried vegetables. They were working fast and furious with hardly time to talk.
Is it better than doing homework?
She wasn’t quite sure but noted she already volunteers at a soup kitchen.
Another student said he was learning how to scoop fast.
A fellow classmate said she liked being on the assembly line because she didn’t have to do school work.
Grade 7 teacher Mrs. Sharma said the students are excited to come to the Gleaners because they know their work is helping the less fortunate.
She noted the students are learning that life isn’t all about them.
General manager Greg Masson said they are in the thick of soup mixing time, which has expanded from a two-week period to an entire month (April and June).
In a partnership with Peace Country Gleaners in Alberta, the local club is receiving grains, pot barley, split peas, carrots, beets and potatoes. So they now have enough product to mix four weeks of the year.
Masson said volunteers come from Moosejaw, Sherwood Park, Osoyoos, Penticton, Oliver, and Rocky Mountain House.
The soup mix is shipped to countries like Guatemala.
Masson said the operation in Oliver is teaching local students how to serve others.
“I look at families today and they’re so busy doing so many things. You know, mom and dad are busy, the kids are busy . . . this just gets them to refocus a little bit maybe (and help out). I’m a 7thgrader and I can make a difference in someone’s life.”
Masson said they look at Oliver with a population of 5,000 people and ask how many times can they eat based on the number of soup mixes the Gleaners process.
He noted the student group that was at the Gleaners one morning basically fed Oliver residents 280 times based on the number of mixes they prepared.
“It gives them (the pupils) an idea of what volunteering is and how things don’t get done unless there are volunteers.”
Masson said they received an email last year from a fellow in Puerto Rico who said he never accepted welfare and didn’t need help from anyone. “But that bowl of soup sure came in handy the other night.”
Masson said his job at the Gleaners is definitely more fulfilling than his past career in newspapers and advertising.
“I can see change every day (here). When you’re in the radio/advertising game you don’t see change every day.”