Toronto-grpNeilMcNeilFrom the Toronto Catholic District School Board

Neil McNeil High School’s Quest 10 program engages grade 10 students to direct their focus to an understanding the ‘other’ in their society.  Not only are these young Catholic men challenged to be understanding of the ‘other’, but they are also thrust into an opportunity where they can develop empathy in their call to be witnesses of Christ.

On December 8th, 2011 these young men found themselves actively becoming aware of issues surrounding basic human needs that many of us take for granted on a daily basis.  A group from World Vision provided an engaging and impactful presentation surrounding the concept of access to water.

The presentation informed the students about the main struggles surrounding water in countries where access to water is not guaranteed to everyone.  There was a discussion based around what World Vision is doing to support those countries and how others can become involved in supporting initiatives to provide universal access to this basic necessity of life.

Empathy is often best inspired through hands-on learning.  Students were first introduced to the issues surrounding the access to water in some global communities, and then these young men were asked to literally walk in the footsteps of those who have to carry water a long distance in order to provide for their community.

The students were divided into four groups outside the school and each student carried a bucket of water on top of their head in order to experience what it is like for those who have to travel long distances to provide water for their community.

These young men at Neil McNeil High School experienced the discomfort of walking in chilling weather conditions, with the weight of a heavy bucket of water, and the pressure from their peers not to waste any water by spilling it.  Most importantly, they struggled with the emotion that comes with the realization that something we take for granted is not universally available to others.

Many of the participants came away with a new outlook on their own life, as they asked questions such as:

‘How am I living?’
‘What am I doing to support others in need?’, and
‘How can I be an advocate of positive change in my local community to effect a greater population?’