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Guelph youth organizing roadside gathering of 215 children to represent Kamloops tragedy

The idea behind the event Children for Change is to provide a powerful visual of what 215 children look like

When Aelish Lewis, 10, and her sisters, Yvaine Lewis, 12, and Fae Lewis, eight, heard about the remains of 215 Indigenous children found in Kamloops, it hit them differently as children themselves.

“They all died and that’s not right,” said Aelish, adding that the findings made her very sad. 

The three sisters came up with an idea to line up 215 children in their neighbourhood from their school — King George Public School on Lemon Street — all the way to Grange Street this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. 

“It’s so the community can see what 215 kids look like,” said Aelish, about the event called Children for Change.

“We just wanted to help in some way.”

The children are also collecting donations during the event and have been participating in odd jobs such as car washes, sidewalk art and light yard work to help them raise and send money to the Anishnabeg Outreach, a centre for Indigenous healing for families in Guelph and Kitchener Waterloo. 

“It's honestly been a really amazing thing to watch happen,” said the childrens’ mother Mairghread Lewis.

“It’s a horrid tragedy, but some of the nice thing to see in my children is to be really taking action.”

She said while the Kamloops incident is not local, there is a whole history of residential schools across Canada that affects the Guelph area too. 

“We thought if there was a child on every block, the neighbours will probably turn heads, people driving through the neighbourhoods would turn heads and just have to pause and think about the reality of that number,” said Lewis adding that she counted to see how far of a distance 215 children would span out socially distanced to come up with the detailed plan. 

Lewis said her children have been trying to spread the word about the event to gather 215 children and have gathered around 50. She said the event will take place regardless of how many children participate. Parents interested in signing up their children can fill out an online form for Children for Change

Lewis said the event will see children wearing orange clothes and participating in their own activities.

“The kids, they bring their own chalk, bring a skipping rope, bring some bubbles and just take action by being there and being a child,” she said. 

Details about the event can be found here.


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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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