District Highlights

Maple Ridge principal receives B.C.’s Medal of Good Citizenship

A School District 42 principal will receive one of British Columbia’s highest honours for organizing a student-driven initiative that helps connect homeless people with their friends and family members.

Kristi Blakeway, the principal of Laity View Elementary in Maple Ridge, is one of 13 people who will receive the province’s Medal of Good Citizenship in a virtual ceremony next month.

“I was shocked,” she said of receiving the phone call informing her she would receive the honour. “I had no idea I had been nominated. It was really emotional to realize a team of kind and supportive people had worked together to make this happen.”

Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District principal Kristi Blakeway and her students hand out cards to homeless people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in an image taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blakeway was recognized for her work with Project HELLO, which started out as a one-day field trip in 2009 for her leadership students who wanted to make a difference in their community. It has since grown into a year-round initiative, helping hundreds of homeless people reconnect with loved ones. 

As part of the program, students approach residents on the street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and ask them if they would like to send a card to a friend or family member. The students then work diligently to track down the card recipient, scouring the internet, phone book, and social media pages for any information that could lead to an address.

“We wanted the homeless community to also experience the joy of giving,” Blakeway said. “I had an excess of scrapbooking supplies so I invited my students to make blank Christmas cards. We headed to the streets and invited people to take our cards and write to others.”

Project HELLO launched in 2009 as a way of helping homeless people connect with their friends and family.

More than a decade later, the students have sent well over 1,000 cards to cities across North America and even recently to England.

“This award reflects the kindness and compassion of hundreds of students and staff who have volunteered with Project HELLO and Beyond HELLO over the last 11 years,” Blakeway said. “I am grateful to the men and women on the streets who have trusted us with their stories. Everyone has a story worth hearing.”

B.C.’s Medal of Good Citizenship started in 2015 and to date more than 90 citizens and two communities have received the award. According to the provincial government, the honour is given to individuals who have made contributions to their community without expectation of remuneration or reward.

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