Dedicated volunteers keep Sandy Hill homework club growing
Tahmid Karim, Fares Dweiri and Abdigani Hussein join Ruweida Shire, second from left, each day at the Strathcona Heights Homework Club.
Community -A small community room is bursting with noise.
Tables, chairs, and children from four years old to 18 fill the area. Some are working on conjugating French verbs, others a math problem but all are making their educational future stronger.
From 3 to 9 p.m., Monday to Friday, the Strathcona Community House operates as a homework club.
Over the course of any one of those evenings, the room will see at least 125 kids –from all communities in the city. All seeking help with their school work.
“My goal is to have the kids graduate high school to make a difference, and to make less crime,” said Ruweida Shire, the creator and director of the program.
The children call Shire auntie and parents praise her dedication to the club –she volunteers her time. For the past six years she has been tutoring, mentoring and caring for each and every child that walks through the door.
“I feel proud,” Shire said. “When I go home I am tired, but I tell myself, “No, I am not tired I am making a difference.'” Shire has a few regular volunteers, as well as students from the University of Ottawa that help the children with their homework.
The program takes place throughout the school year and Shire also runs a summer camp.
Run out of the Ottawa Community Housing Strathcona Heights neighbourhood, the space is offered for free and other costs involved with running the club come from many sources.
The Ottawa Food Bank supplies the snacks and juice, the local community association and the area city councillor help out along with the occasional parent sends money with their child to help cover costs –but even then the club has needs and Shire said its biggest need is for printer ink.
Recently set up with an Internet connection by community housing, the computer and printer used by the homework club are in use constantly.
Because of that, Shire said the printer goes through ink cartridges every month.
“We used to get the ink from a donation, but that donation has stopped,” she said.
According to Shire, it doesn’t matter if the club receives money for the ink or ink itself the club would welcome any help offered.
The director will be hitting the pavement to reach out to community partners, in hopes to find the money for the printer ink.
Every year, Shire said, she thinks she has enough money to run the club, but then more
children show up.
“The numbers grow every year,” she said. “On the first day this year we opened the door and there was a lineup.”
Abdigani Hussein started coming to the club when he was only in Grade 6. A new immigrant, Hussein didn’t know how to speak English, but was already in an English-speaking school. He said the homework club not only helped him survive the year, but made him enjoy school.
“This was the only place I got help,” Hussein said. “At school there are too many kids; teachers don’t have the same amount of time to help you.”
Hussein said that his favourite part of the club is having the chance to understand what he is learning in class.
“Here they push you, they help you and make sure you know what you are learning,” he said.
Now in Grade 11, Hussein is looking forward to applying to university to study engineering. Shire said Hussein’s story is like many others and she loves knowing this club is helping these children get there.
“When I started this club, I had just five kids and three were mine. Within a month, there were 75 kids coming,” Shire said. “At first I was really surprised, but you know, if you offer good service, and you offer love and respect these kids can learn respect and the importance of what your community can do.”