Valens Wolfs doesn’t take credit for a club that sponsored a child for over a decade and inspired students year after year. The credit, he said in an interview, all goes to his students.
When grade 13 was still around, the seasoned teacher taught a class called Science in Society at Father Michael Goetz Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario. The class covered science’s impact in society throughout the history of technology, and quickly, the word spread: this was the class to take. Soon, enrollment tripled.
Eventually, students who finished the course began asking: “Sir, can we keep meeting?”
Valens, knowing those moments don’t come around every day, jumped at the chance.
“As an educator, doesn’t matter what you’re doing – stop everything, hold the presses, we’ve got interest,” he said.
Thus the SSO Wh5t Club (pronounced ‘So what?) was born. What began as a group of students meeting weekly to discuss an article blossomed into a 25-year club that raised awareness of social justice issues and, eventually, sponsored a child named Samuel through Chalice.
Members of the club raised awareness of social justice issues, sometimes through conferences, and other times by projects, including one where they sold bottled air. The members posed as salespeople, and asked their classmates to buy the air – drawing attention to the absurdity of commodifying another live-giving resource, water.
Sponsorship, meanwhile, was a natural evolution. The club members knew some charities offered child sponsorship and brought up the possibility to Valens. He wanted them to go a step further in their search.
“I said, ‘I want you to find the organization out there where the most money goes to the actual kid’,” he recalled.
Quickly, the students discovered Chalice, which commits 90.5% of donations towards programming. They began sponsoring Samuel, a young boy from Zambia.
Students rotated in-and-out through the years, but the club always found members to fundraise Samuel’s sponsorship fees. In fact, all it took to put food on Samuel’s table and help him through school was two bake sales per year.
Valens gave up his lunch hours to supervise bake sales and his afternoons to run the club. He expected the same from his students.
“It’s gotta hurt. If you’re gonna make a difference, it’s gotta hurt,” he’d tell them.
25 years after its inception, Valens plans to retire, and no one else has time to take on the club. But its legacy will live on in Samuel, and in one school in Tanzania.
The school had some extra money in the club’s bank account, so Valens contacted Chalice about what to do with the extra money. He learned about Sanangula Primary School, a member of Chalice’s School Connections program in Mbinga, Tanzania. Ultimately, the school donated the money towards a new food storage facility for Sanangula, and the SSO Wh5t Club lives on in a new way.