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Burnaby students fundraising for global COVID-19 vaccine equity

After a two-year pandemic-related hiatus, Burnaby South Secondary's We Council has dedicated its first major fundraiser to help make sure people in developing countries get equal access to vaccines.

It looks like Grade 12 students in Burnaby may get their first proper graduation since COVID-19 hit two years ago, but students at Burnaby South Secondary aren’t taking anything for granted.

The school’s We Council has launched a campaign to help strike at the source of possible new waves of the pandemic: global vaccine inequity.

“The reason that COVID-19 is still here is because the developing world doesn’t have the same access that we do to COVID-19 vaccines,” says Rui Weng, a Grade 10 student and a co-chair of the covid vaccine equity campaign. “Some of us in Canada have already received three doses while people in developing countries haven’t even received one.”

On April 4, the We Council, a student-led club dedicated to fundraising for local and global causes, unveiled a plan to raise $5,000 by the end of the month for COVAX, a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Within two weeks, the campaign had generated more than $4,500, with two weeks still to go.

“I think that really shows how much support we’re getting,” says Zayaan Husain, a Grade 9 student and a co-chair of the campaign. “We’ve had a lot of support from the principals and from the school community … everyone’s showing a lot of enthusiasm for it.”

The student group hasn’t been able to run a major fundraiser for two years because of the pandemic, according to social studies teacher Sabha Ghani, the club’s teacher sponsor.

During COVID restrictions, she said the club did its best to keep school spirit up by organizing fun, socially distanced activities, such as scavenger hunts, for students.

“It’s been a challenge for the last couple of years to be honest,” Ghani says.

We Council meetings, too, had to be masked and socially distanced up until the beginning of this month.

That has made organizing the vaccine-equity fundraiser without COVID restrictions that much sweeter.

“It’s easier to share ideas that way. That was a relief,” says Grade 9 student and campaign co-chair Leeyo Xu. “It also gave the opportunity for many We Council members to make friends, so that was really great.”

Staff and students alike have gotten on board.

School administrators have agreed to take pies in the face if the campaign reaches certain targets.

At $7,500, it will be principal Victoria Lee that gets pied.

To help launch the campaign, members of the school’s B.C. championship-winning senior boys basketball team walked around in sandwich boards collecting donations.

And teachers, including Sabha, have pitted their classes’ fundraising prowess against those of their colleagues.

To find out more or to donate to the We Council campaign, follow them on Twitter @southwecouncil or visit their fundraising page.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor