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December 8, 2017
Service Learning
Drawing inspiration from a variety of leaders, Deputy Principal, Karrie Weinstock spoke to Senior and Middle School students at assembly this week about service learning. We share with you here Mrs. Weinstock’s motivating speech:

You Cannot think yourself into Right Living
You live yourself into Right Thinking
‐ Native Elders

“One of the greatest Jewish sages, Hillel, who lived 100 years before the birth of Jesus, enunciated the principle of service to others. He spoke about our obligations to ourselves which in modern terms would translate into self-care and the need to nurture ourselves. But Hillel went on to say, 'If I am only for myself, who am I? 'The answer is clear—we become truly rounded when we give of ourselves to others. We call this ‘service learning’ because in the process of giving to others, we learn many important things—that there is a wider world in which people have experiences different to ours. We learn humility when we see how people cope with adversity and, how different the world looks from the perspective of others.

In addition, we learn that we don’t always get it right and we need to apologize when we make mistakes. This was embodied two weeks ago, when our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, ‘humbly apologized’ to the survivors of Canada’s residential schools. He apologized for the ‘colonial thinking that led to abuse and cultural losses at residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador.’ Speaking at a ceremony with former students in Goose Bay, Prime Minister Trudeau apologized on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians. He acknowledged that there was ‘deep harm’ done when children were isolated from their families and communities, and made to feel ‘irrelevant, inferior and ashamed.’

Accepting the Prime Minister’s apology, Mr. Toby Obed said, ‘Because I come from a patient and forgiving culture, I think it is proper for us to accept the apology of the Government of Canada—it is an important part of the healing. We got the apology we deserve— and it came in person. We didn’t have to go to them— they came to us.’

Our school’s theme for service learning this year is Women for Women, which ties in with Women Strong—our inspiring theme for Gloria Steinem’s visit.

When Wilma Mankiller was elected Chief in 1987, there had never been an elected female Cherokee chief – it was assumed that a male chief was inevitable. Yet, she was chosen because she was respectful, patient and a good listener and she urged her people to move forward. She used her newly acquired power – not for personal aggrandisement, but for service to her community. Together, the community built their own water systems, youth programs and health delivery systems and these became models for other rural communities. As a result, Wilma Mankiller’s community was able to move beyond government subsidies and become more independent.

One of the greatest rewards for Wilma Mankiller’s service to others came when President Clinton gave her the highest civilian honour, The Medal of Honour. In her memoir, Gloria Steinem remembers that day and recalls, ‘As Wilma stood there, strong, kind and not at all intimidated by another Chief of State, I thought that she could be President.’

This morning, as we move into the season of giving and receiving, I invite you to think about your involvement in service learning and how it connects to our mission at Branksome to ‘shape a better world. How do we each focus on the importance of creating partnerships with communities and organizations so that we learn from each other?” When Gloria Steinem spoke to us, she advised us always to remember, ‘We are linked, not ranked’ for it is in our connection to, and empathy with others that we find true meaning and purpose in our lives.”

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