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Kenya Connection: Winnipeg teacher helps students become humanitarian leaders

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By Roderick Benns

Annette Greene was born and raised on the streets of the North End of Winnipeg – and she means that literally.  As her mother was exiting a taxi at the corner of McAdam Avenue and St. Cross Street, Greene decided to arrive at that moment.

“The taxi driver stayed while she gave birth to me on the boulevard and then took us to the hospital,” says Greene.

When Greene’s mother had a massive and permanently debilitating stroke in 1978, her step-father, Dave Mogle, took over all the parenting. It is here where Greene’s community leadership and social justice teaching path may have been set in motion.

“He was an incredibly wonderful human. We had no money. We were as poor as dirt. Dave managed to provide for me by being a self-proclaimed ‘junk man.’ He’d pick up old batteries and metal products from back lanes and tear them apart and sell the scrap metal for money. That’s what we lived off of,” says Greene.

She adds that they managed to share what they had, “which wasn’t much,” with anyone who needed a hand up.

“He’d give someone the shirt off his back if he or she needed it. And he’d always remind me to stay in school to get an education – to get my ‘ticket.’ I listened. It wasn’t easy growing up poor in Winnipeg’s North End. But, I believe I’m better off because of it.”

Greene grew up to become a thoughtful and respected community leader and high school teacher. She was recently named one of the “100 Most Fascinating Manitobans for 2013.”

Greene tells Leaders and Legacies that her growing need to participate in humanitarian work was nurtured by her late step-father.

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“It wasn’t unusual for me to come home from school to find strangers in my home. My step-dad would introduce them as ‘newcomers’ who needed a good meal and some help to find a job.”

When she got to high school, Greene was always the champion for the underdog. She found her passion in volunteering and service learning, something that was far less common at the time than today.

Now a student services (resource) teacher at Maples Collegiate in Winnipeg, she primarily works with students who require additional supports. She has also taught History, Social Studies, English and Special Education.

“For me, the best thing about teaching is being able to introduce opportunities for youth to do things they may not have a chance to do without support or mentorship. There’s nothing more rewarding than talking about a world issue or local issue with students and it motivates them to take action. When I’ve seen this happen… when a group of students come together with a common passion to create change… it’s a remarkable sight. Young people are far more capable than what we give them credit for,” says Greene.

Kenya 

One of the initiatives Greene is most known for is the Maples Kenya Connection Project.

When she encountered a group of students who seemed eager and determined to do some humanitarian work Greene connected with a local charity – The Kenya Initiative for Development & Sustainability (K.I.D.S. Initiative). Founded by Winnipeg’s Cat Ross, the charity owner prepared the community members and students in the programs she supports. Greene’s students were determined to make a large donation and to visit the local area in Kenya where they were focusing their support.

In less than four years, the Maples Kenya Connection Project raised $58,000 – of which $25,000 was donated to K.I.D.S. Initiative to cover the cost of necessities such as a dairy project, greenhouse, medical supplies, school uniforms, text books, and food. The remainder of the money was used to cover costs of travel for students who couldn’t afford the trip without support.

“To see firsthand where the money was used was the best feeling,” says Greene. “We were warmly welcomed into the communities and treated like family.”

She says the highlight of their volunteer trip was a visit to Mama Tunza Children’s Centre. It was there that they donated funds for cows, dairy farming equipment and supplies, a greenhouse, and clothing.

“Watching my students personally give the clothing they brought from Canada to the children living in the centre was special and unforgettable,” says Greene, and she notes the students really enjoyed interacting with the kids they had helped.

“The relationships we made are still strong today as we keep in touch with many of the children and young adults we supported. It was a life-changing experience for all my students.”

Part two: Annette Greene on why teaching social justice issues in classrooms is imperative.

 

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One comment

  1. Annette what an amazing teacher you are. Joan

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