May 2022 – Board Goes North

Board Member Trip to Treaty 3

In May 2022, SchoolBOX’s Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and staff team traveled to northern Canada to visit the SchoolBOX library sites located in Treaty 3. Our trip kicked off with a team visit to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The museum is one of a kind, beautifully designed, it highlights the global human right’s struggles and successes. Our team was able to reflect and prepare our hearts for the trip ahead.

Gaagagekiizhik & Bimose High School Visit

SchoolBOX team with Kiizhik Educators and Staff outside the portable which will be transformed into a library!

The following day, our team drove from Winnipeg to Kenora to visit the Gaagagekiizhik and Bimose High School (Kiizhik School), where SchoolBOX’s current library project is underway. It was the first time for all of our Board members visiting the Kiizhik school. Principal Wendy McPherson warmly welcomed our team and gave us a full tour of the beautiful school. We were pleasantly surprised that the school was celebrating Spring Feast, an Anishinabemowen cultural celebration of the change of season. As we entered the gymnasium where the celebration was being held, we were given the incredible honor of being seated as special guests. We were blown away by the generosity and kindness of the staff, educators, elders, and students during the feast. We were each given the four sacred medicines, invited to participate in the pow wow dances, and then we feasted together. It was a significant moment for our Board and team members to interact with the students, staff, and educators, as we connected with Anishinabemowen culture.

Students and Staff drum together during Spring Feast

Pow Wow dancer at Spring Feast
Everyone attending Spring Feast was invited to participate in a dance
Some of the significant items needed to celebrate Spring Feast

Then, for the first time, our board was able to visit the current Library Project site, the Gikendaaso anwebi waakaa’igan Library, the “Place of Learning and Rest”. This will be the library for all children and youth at the Kiizhik School. This project has been a work in progress over the last year, and it was very significant that our team be there for the ribbon cutting ceremony. We also put them to work, and had them unload and build the first pieces of furniture that will help transform the space. It was a great team building experience! And for the very first time, Principal Wendy McPherson, Shawn Bertrand from First Nations Industrial Systems, SchoolBOX Executive Director Sarah Kerr, SchoolBOX North Director Terri Meekis were together to celebrate how far this project has come! It was a true milestone!

SchoolBOX team with Kiizhik Principal Wendy McPherson and Shawn Bertrand from First Nations Industrial Systems at the ribbon cutting for the Kiizhik Library!
SchoolBOX team members building furniture for the new library
SB North Director Terri Meekis, SB Executive Director Sarah Kerr, Kiizhik Principal Wendy MchPerson, and Shawn Bertrand from First Nations Industrial Systems together inside the new portable which will become the library!

Cecelia Jeffrey Residential School Memorial Visit

After our time at the Kiizhik school, our team visited the Cecelia Jeffrey Residential school memorial site. This memorial, where the Cecelia Jeffrey Residential school once stood, is only a 2 minute drive from the Kiizhik School. The dichotomy of having just visited Kiizhik, a vibrant thriving First Nations community that empowers their children and youth Anishinaabemowin identity, and then standing on the very ground where Cecelia Jeffrey once stood, reflecting on the atrocities that took place there, was significant and deeply moving. We took time to remember the lives that were lost at Cecelia Jeffrey, honored the ones that survived, and then reflected inwardly on how we as Indigenous and non-Indigenous can answer the call to true allyship and reconciliation.

Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation Library Visit

SchoolBOX team outside the NAN Libraries

The next day we traveled 30 minutes north of Kenora to the community of Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation, to have our team begin the cataloging process of the children and youth libraries. These two libraries were implemented in 2019, but the full organization of the books had yet to be completed. This was a great hands-on experience for our team. For many of them, it was their first time meeting Bernice Major, NAN community member who has been responsible for the running and upkeep of the libraries. Bernice is incredible, and has given so much of her time and energy to get these libraries up and running in her community. She is an involved council member and community advocate, we are so thankful for her partnership and her hard work over the years!

Bernice Major, Niisaachewan Librarian

Above: Various photos of the SB team in Niisaachewan

In closing…

The trip was a meaningful time of listening and learning together. As our team reflected on the trip, they felt inspired and filled with hope. Our responsibility at SchoolBOX is to ensure that we respect and honour each of our partnerships and align with their community goals. We are better together when we listen, learn and respect one another. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible and to our board members for your openness of heart and your generosity of time and energy! Thank you to our incredible hosts Wendy, Shawn, Terri, Ramona, and Bernice, without you, this partnership would not be possible! Together we are working together to make education possible!

Sue Griggs
Executive Coach, Educator

Sue has had an eclectic career as an educator with children and adults from ages four to eighty. Much of her energy is now focused on executive coaching and advising non profits such as SchoolBOX. Sue works to ensure that both the Canadian and Nicaraguan communities continue to grow and to develop with mutual respect and caring.

Harvey Griggs
Engineer, Entrepreneur

Harvey Griggs has enjoyed a remarkable career as an engineer and entrepreneur. In 2008 Harvey came to Nicaragua to assist with the build of SchoolBOX’s third school. He was deeply impressed with the kindness, the generosity, the spirit and the commitment to education demonstrated by the Nicaraguans. He has been an energetic supporter of SchoolBOX ever since.

Jim David
Founder, Trumpet Capital Corp.

Jim has been a vital supporter of SchoolBOX since the beginning. Jim travelled to Nicaragua in early 2008 to help construct one of our first schools and has been actively involved ever since. Jim is a commercial mortgage advisor and founder of Trumpet Capital Corp in Calgary, Alberta. He is passionate about yoga, and helping children in Nicaragua.

Tom Affleck
SchoolBOX Founder

Tom Affleck has lived and worked in Guatemala, Peru and Nicaragua. It was an unexpected encounter in Nicaragua, however, that sparked the SchoolBOX dream. In 2006 he gave two girls notebooks and pencils. One of the girls’ father said to her “now that you have a notebook and pencil you can go to school this year”. Tom saw his work building SchoolBOX as an opportunity to live out his faith and to break the bonds of poverty for thousands of children.

Jennette Affleck
Retired Teacher, co-founder of SchoolBOX

Jennette has been involved with early childhood education for her entire professional career. Jennette has taught in Boston, Toronto, the Ottawa Valley, and Monteverde, Costa Rica. Jennette was SchoolBOX’s longest serving Board member, has participated in 7+ school builds in Nicaragua, and was an integral part of our organization since its infancy.

Dina Bell-Laroche
Executive Coach, Sport Law & Strategy Group

Dina has been involved with SchoolBOX since 2012. In 2013, she led a team of youth to Nicaragua to participate in a school build and returned to Canada committed to making a difference. Dina’s experience in facilitation and strategic communications has been an asset to SchoolBOX. Dina believes that education really opens up opportunities for students in Nicaragua and strives to use her skills to create change.

Shannon O’Rourke

Shannon is passionate about unlocking human potential through meaningful education experiences and global community connections. Professionally, she is a marketing executive with 25 years of cross-industry experience in accelerating positive impact, innovation, and growth through the teams and organizations she serves. Shannon joined the board in 2023. She is honored to work with the SchoolBOX team to help make education possible and to further empower children, youth, families, and communities to live their best lives.

Stephanie Potter
Master Integral Coach, PhD

A longtime supporter of SchoolBOX activities, Stephanie, her husband, and youngest daughter joined a trip to Nicaragua in 2018 where they fell in love with the country and the communities they visited. After seeing the impact of SchoolBOX’s work first-hand, Stephanie was inspired to join the Board and did so in February 2020. Stephanie is humbled by the opportunity to lend her knowledge and skills to help make education – and therefore community and social change – possible through the work of SchoolBOX.

Jim Sale
Owner,‌ ‌REEF‌ ‌Consulting‌ ‌Services‌

Jim‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌management‌ ‌consultant‌ ‌who‌ ‌helps‌ ‌multi-national‌ ‌organizations‌ ‌optimize‌ ‌commercial‌ ‌effectiveness.‌ ‌He‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌long-time‌ ‌supporter‌ ‌of‌ ‌SchoolBOX‌ ‌and‌ ‌had‌ ‌the‌ ‌opportunity‌ ‌to‌ ‌travel‌ ‌to ‌Nicaragua‌ ‌in‌ ‌2016‌ ‌to‌ ‌help‌ ‌build‌ ‌the‌ ‌Gilberto‌ ‌Siles‌ ‌school.‌ ‌Impressed‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌pragmatic‌ ‌approach‌ ‌SchoolBOX‌ ‌takes‌ ‌to‌ ‌deliver‌ ‌highly‌ ‌impactful‌ ‌and‌ ‌sustainable‌ ‌solutions,‌ ‌he‌ ‌joined‌ ‌the‌ ‌Board‌ ‌of‌ ‌Directors‌ ‌in‌ ‌2021‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌goal‌ ‌of‌ ‌applying‌ ‌his‌ ‌energy‌ ‌and‌ ‌experience‌ ‌to‌ ‌help‌ ‌SchoolBOX‌ ‌continue‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌education‌ ‌possible.‌

Natalie Gunn, Chair
Co-Owner, Oxford Learning Centre Kanata

Natalie was born with a passion for education, helping people and travel. Looking for a new volunteer project, she joined the Equator Coffee Roasters team and visited Nicaragua for a classroom build in November 2016 and proudly joined the Board of Directors in late 2017. Natalie is co-owner of the Oxford Learning Centre Kanata and committed to supporting children to reach their full potential.

Margie Graff
Retired Teacher

After 32 years of teaching with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Margie retired and began volunteering with SchoolBOX’s Treaty 3 library partnerships. She was honoured to be entrusted with the ordering of Indigenous texts and resources for communities and schools, as well as travelling to two communities to lend a hand in setting up their library spaces. In 2022, Margie joined the board and continues to build on these wonderful experiences to ensure that all learners have the resources and opportunities to realize their dreams.

Jo Danaher
Financial Manager

Jo Danaher is our cheerful financial wizard. She keeps all of our SchoolBOX finances in order, and makes sure that we are meeting the highest standards for a charitable organization. Jo enjoys seeing the amazing power that the SchoolBOX community of volunteers and donors has to impact the education of so many children.

Rochelle Bragg
Social Media and Communications Manager

Rochelle is mixed Anishi but has much of her far jowin (Qj Cree) and Swiss-German, currently living in Treaty 19, ly living in Treaty 9, specifically the isolated community of Muskrat Dam First Nation. Rochelle is committed to speaking out on the Indigenous realities in  Canada and doing her part to help this next generation of Indigenous youth pursue their educational and personal goals.