Fundraising Nordic athletes thinking outside box
Thursday, Oct 24, 2013 06:00 am
After seven long months of grey skies and countless kilometres of track-set snow, most nordic athletes disappear to exotic beach destinations to replenish their vitamin B supplies.
But this spring, eight socially-conscious nordic athletes are eschewing relaxation for a chance to build schools in Nicaragua in April thanks to a partnership with the non-profit charity Schoolbox.
Canadian cross-country national team star Perianne Jones is leading the Skiers4schoolbox program with a fundraiser on Thursday (Oct. 24) at the Canmore Nordic Centre. She and her partner, Joel Jaques, will travel to Masaya, Nicaragua along with fellow top athletes Emily Nishikawa, Zoe Roy, Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt, Mark Arendz and Phil Widmer for 10 days after the ski season to help the charity.
The charity is trying to purchase a parcel of land on which to build a school with permission from the minister of education. After two years of negotiation, the group has the go-ahead and the proper block of time following the ski season.
“(Masaya) is a smaller place than the capital and has a keen group of students and teachers. We’re going to make sure they have an actual spot that’s dry and safe to learn,” said Jones.
Jones, 27, grew up with the founders of the Schoolbox program in Almonte, Ont., which thus far has constructed 44 classrooms in Nicaragua. Although the group has limited carpentry skills, they’re all fit and willing to help further education opportunities in the small village.
“Schoolbox have people on the ground that handle logistics and most of the building. We’ll be extra hands and getting the children excited about school and what’s possible,” Jones said.
Masaya is a city of 146,000 situated 14 kilometres west of Granada. It’s built on the side of a volcano, and is centrally located in an agricultural region.
The athlete’s life is a self-centred pursuit, so the group is extremely willing to give back after receiving so much support with their own careers.
“I’ve been wanting to do something with Schoolbox for some time. Skiing is kind of selfish most of the time, so it’s good to give back and have fun doing it,” Jones said.
Jones will compete for Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. She won a bronze medal in the team sprint on the Olympic course last season with Dasha Gaiazova, and she’s been trying to broaden her horizons with the humanitarian group for some time.
“Education is something that we take for granted. Those kids are so excited to have the opportunity to learn,” Jones said.
Snow is a foreign concept to most of the Nicaraguan children, so the skiers can’t wait to explain the possibilities of sport to the village.
“It will be fun to explain what we do and bring a whole new experience to them,” Jones said.
Nicaragua is the second-poorest nation in Latin America, where half the population falls beneath the poverty line. Schoolbox has an agreement with the local ministry of education to ensure the schools are staffed and the teachers are paid after the charity finishes its work.
This is the first humanitarian endeavour for Nishikawa, who will take time between ski races to work on her Spanish. Growing up in the north, she knows what a difference such programs can make.
“Peri told me about the trip last spring and I thought it looks pretty cool. To help out wherever I can is awesome,” Nishikawa said. “This is my first time and I’m pretty excited.”
Thursday’s fundraiser will cost $20 at the door, which will include a Free Rangers’ concert, bucket draw and drinks. Doors open at 7:30 at the Bill Warren Training Centre.
They are still looking for more people to join the trip, as they have room for 12 to 16 people. Those interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org