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Halifax students give back to the community by collecting hundreds of face masks

The students collected 600 masks in total

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caption Grace El Hawary (far left) and Isabelle Drohan (second from left) hand over the masks to the NECHC at the end of their campaign.
Grace El Hawary and Isabelle Drohan

Two Halifax high school students set out to collect masks for those in need, and got more than they expected.

Grade 12 students Grace El Hawary and Isabelle Drohan were given a project to do something positive for the community in their Leadership 12 class.

After the two students of Citadel High noticed that face masks were at the top of the Christmas wish list for local homeless shelters, they set out on a mission to collect masks for those in need.

Their goal was to collect 500 masks.

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“I thought it would be a good cause to support,” El Hawary said.

caption Grace El Hawary (right) and Isabelle Drohan (left) pose with their donation box at the Dalhousie Student Union Building
Grace El Hawary and Isabelle Drohan

The students set up donation boxes at their school, Gorsebrook Junior High, and Dalhousie University’s Student Union Building. They received different types of masks, from disposable to reusable. After getting the masks they washed the non-disposable ones in hot water, bagged the masks individually, and donated them to the North End Community Health Centre (NECHC).

El Hawary and Drohan said they chose to donate the masks to the NECHC because the organization reaches people in need through its services. The health centre has mobile-accessible street health clinics, a homeless support unit, and a social work service unit.

The mission to collect masks was not initially smooth sailing for the pair. Their donation boxes were empty for the first few days. They emailed many schools in Halifax, and most of them didn’t respond.

Drohan recalled they put out the boxes on a Monday and didn’t get anything until four days later.

“On the last day we went, there were so many in the box… It’s super rewarding when you go and look, and you actually get a lot,” she said.

One person even offered to donate 75 masks. In the end, they collected over 600 masks — 100 more than their target.

“They have to actually persevere a lot of time when they have an idea and it doesn’t [immediately] work out,” said Dana Holmes, who teaches the course Leadership 12 at Citadel High.

Holmes said that the aim of the project was to equip students with skills that they don’t normally get in a regular academic environment. It teaches them leadership skills like communication, event co-ordination, and team development.

Normally, the class would do volunteer work with organizations like Phoenix Youth Programs or the Northwood long-term care facility. But because of COVID-19, they were not permitted to do volunteer work this year.

For a first-time effort, the students felt their charity work was a success.

“I’m just grateful for all the donations we got. The fact that we reached our goal, I’m very happy about that,” El Hawary said.

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Leo Bui

I'm a journalism student at the University of King's College.

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