A non-profit organization led by students from North Toronto Collegiate Institute is doing its part to give hundreds of refugee children a warm welcome when they arrive from Syria this winter.
Compass, led by elected president and NTCI grade 12 student Liat Fainman-Adelman, is a Junior Achievement-based company of about 35 high school students from across Toronto. So far it has produced for Syrian families more than 250 welcome packages with mittens, blankets, Canadian maple candies, stuffed animals, crayons, and an Arabic-English translation colouring book.
“Non-profits are virtually unheard of in the Junior Achievement community,” acknowledges Fainman-Adelman, who has volunteered with her school’s chapter of the international youth organization, which teaches elementary and high school students about economics, since grade nine.
The proposal to create a non-profit organization that would support Syrian refugees was proposed by Michael Wickware, a grade 12 student at York Mills Collegiate Institute who serves as the company’s vice-president of sales.
“Business is all about looking around and seeing where there’s a need,” Wickware says. “I thought that as a team we should be recognizing the needs of those around us and using our abilities to create something good.”
In addition to providing refugee families with its signature welcome packages, Compass is collaborating with youth-oriented non-profit Trinity Theatre to create workshops at public high schools, starting with NTCI, that will educate students about the global refugee crisis.
And like any successful non-profit, the company’s young executive team has been able to secure some well-known corporate sponsors: Sun Life Financial, which donated $2000, BlackBerry, which donated $1,000, and professional services firm Deloitte, whose employee Sean Thongchan has advised the company since its inception.
“It is the first time in my five years of volunteering with Junior Achievement’s company program that I have advised a non-profit startup,” Thongchan says.
Interestingly enough, the board members of Compass — all 35 or so of them — voted to focus on the welcome packages over two other for-profit propositions: a metal “heartbeat bracelet,” sales of which would have benefitted the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and a website development service for small businesses.
“The second one especially was pretty innovative and a lot of people were interested in it, but I’m still happy we chose the Syrian refugee one,” Fainman-Adelman says.