Guitars for the Human Rights museum

12- to 14-year-old Selkirk kids, all set to change the world one step at a time, support this special building with sale of their one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted instruments.

By Cindy McKay

Educators will tell you that if you want to change the world, give it to the 12- to 14-year-olds, as they are the ones with the passion and time to truly instigate change.  Ecole Selkirk Junior High principal, Wayne Davies, is a firm believer in this. For the last few years, he has seen his students thrive and grow with the Building on Student Success (BOSS) guitar works program.

Under the innovative guidance of shop teachers Kris Hancok and Scott Sampson, the BOSS guitar works program has kept students engaged, excited and very busy. Guitars depicting celebrities, music groups, sports teams and personalities are crafted into one-of-a-kind instruments. A traditional guitar design is among the offerings, but students are encouraged to be creative and design something unique that suits the star’s personality. Arrangements are then made for the instruments to be autographed.

In the last two years, celebrity-notarized guitars have been donated to over 27 charities and organizations, raising over $62,000.

At their first major “Built by Suns, Signed by Stars” fundraising event, the students chose to donate the bulk of the proceeds to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The 2011 event sold out early and attracted more than 500 people. Fifty-five guitars were auctioned off, raising  $35,579. There will be a follow-up museum fundraiser in the Selkirk Recreation Center next May.

Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights reviewed this and other recent fundraising achievements, and recognized their many donors and supporters, at a press conference in late September. Since Friends began their fundraising drive in 2002, more than $136 million has been raised from the private sector, with $6 million in donations in this past year alone.

“This is the largest amount ever raised by a national museum,” commented Premier Greg Selinger at the event. “This museum is special to all Canadians.”

Last month, the Selinger government approved a $35 million loan guarantee for the museum. Organizers are confident this assurance will guarantee the expected 2014 opening date.

“It is thanks to the unprecedented support of the private and public sectors that we can look forward to 2014 when the Canadian Museum for Human Rights will open its doors and forever become a beacon of light and hope for Canadians, and people from around the world,” says national campaign chair Gail Asper. “By working together we will change the world.”

Philanthropy, as she signaled, is alive and well among Manitoba youth.

‘Champions’ tackle problems
In an upbeat speech, Asper singled out a few of Manitoba’s  young “stars” or “human rights champions”.  Eight-year-old Jack Scurfield told friends not to bring gifts to his birthday party but requested money to donate to the museum. Sophie Wynne donated a portion of the gifts she received at her Bar Mitzvah; and the grade 8 class from St. Alphonsus School in Winnipeg organized a 12-hour relay in which over $1,000 was raised.

“We live in an age when many view teenagers as part of the problem,” said Ecole Selkirk principal Davies. “I am lucky to work with a group of young people who truly are part of the solution. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights will give us all the opportunity to be a part of the solution. It has been an amazing ride watching my students and staff work towards its completion.”

Seventeen Ecole Selkirk students were on hand to mingle with the crowd and answer questions about their guitar project. “It is because of Mr. Davies, Mr. Sampson and Mr. Hancock, we believe we can change the world one guitar at a time,” says 12-year-old BOSS student Robbie Human with conviction.

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