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Branksome Hall's Triangle of Hope partnership has provided "life-changing" opportunities for students on two continents.
June 10, 2014
Celebrating a Decade of Life-changing Experiences
It has opened doors to new cultures and new experiences. It has cemented international and local friendships. And, in the process, Branksome Hall's Triangle of Hope partnership has provided "life-changing" opportunities for students on two continents.

Close to 70 current and former Branksome students who participated in the Triangle of Hope over the years gathered at Branksome May 28 to celebrate the program's 10th anniversary.

Founded by Peter Oliver, Chair of the Stephen Leacock Foundation for Children, the Triangle of Hope partners a Toronto independent school with a Toronto inner-city school and a school in South Africa, providing opportunities for student learning, service and friendship. Branksome Hall and Rose Avenue Public School, in Toronto, partner with the Queenstown Get Ahead Project School (QGAP) in South Africa.

One recent program participant was Grade 11 student Erin Estey, who visited QGAP and the Queenstown Get Ahead College (QGAC) in 2014 and led classes for younger students. Erin says she has noticed the difference that the Triangle of Hope has made in the lives of participants, both those in South Africa and her classmates from Branksome.

A 'Life-changing Gift'
"It's odd to think that nine days in a place can have a profound impact on someone, but, for all the girls who went to South Africa with me and the girls who have gone before us, the experience was the most life-changing gift that we could ask for," says Erin.

The relationship—which includes March Break student trips to South Africa and summer trips by Branksome teachers to help senior GAP senior students with their exams—has benefited the students reciprocally.

QGAP students have said that "Branksome has given them the ability to see outside of Queenstown and create friendships that extend all the way to Canada," says Erin.

Forming Indelible Friendships
"The past 10 years have been primarily about relationships and friendships, for we know that, in life, there is no stronger driver," says Deputy Principal Karrie Weinstock, who helped launch Branksome's Triangle of Hope participation.

Students at Branksome Hall, QGAP and Rose Avenue Public School, "have had a reason to work together and a shared purpose that has bonded us," says Mrs. Weinstock. "We have formed friendships and memories that are indelible and long-lasting."

The program is also about finding common ground between communities in two different hemispheres of the world. "It is a universal truth that parents, the world over, want the best for their children and students, whatever their language and culture, want to learn, make friends with and be their best selves," adds Mrs. Weinstock.

But Erin also noted some differences regarding how students approach education. "Everyone is expected to go to school in Canada, yet for one to attend school in South Africa is not as easy," she explains. The South African students learn eagerly, "because they know that what they're learning represents their future. Sometimes finances are tight, and students can't pay the monthly tuition, so every moment that the learners spend in the Get Ahead uniform is a gift that many others don't receive."

During her trip to QGAP in 2012, Carol DRUMM'13 noted the optimism displayed by students and others she met in South Africa.

"It was this constant energy and genuine happiness that originated from something that was not materialistic, and existed even under difficult circumstances, that had the biggest impact for me," says Carol, who's now studying at the University of Toronto.

In addition, the community service trip taught Carol the importance of committing to long-term partnerships. "Although every group that visits QGAP brings something different to the school, it is the culmination of all these visits that has allowed QGAP to grow."

Mrs. Weinstock's unforgettable moments have included accompanying Branksome teachers and students to see Nelson Mandela's birthplace—now his burial place. "Walking with students through the Nelson Mandela Museum and showing them photographs of life during my childhood, growing up in the Apartheid years and witnessing first-hand the resistance against it through my father's work in the Liberal Party was particularly moving," says the native South African.

"As Branksome girls, we are lucky to have such strong links to a place like QGAP and QGAC," says Erin. "Hopefully our strong ties and commitment with the school continues for many more decades to come."

"Each year, the programs get better as the circle widens and new initiatives are embraced," says Mrs. Weinstock. For example, the introduction of enhanced technology, with Branksome's assistance, is enabling QGAP students to connect by computer across the miles.

Local Partnerships
Closer to home, as part of our partnership with Rose Avenue Public School, groups of Branksome students go weekly to Rose Avenue to run the after-school Homework Club and the JUMP Math Tutoring program.

In 2006, Branksome began hosting the Leap into Literacy camp for Rose Avenue Public School students. The camp gives at-risk students the opportunity to enhance their literacy skills in preparation for the upcoming academic year.

A couple of years ago, a partnership between Branksome and Toronto's First Nations School expanded our "triangle."

"Each year, I feel extraordinary pride and joy to see the number of girls and teachers who are connected to the Triangle of Hope," says Mrs. Weinstock.

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