ROBERT WILLIAMS - Telegraph-Journal
October 25, 2017
While most 15-year-olds were enjoying their time off during the summer holidays, Heather Chisholm was at the dinner table brainstorming outreach projects with her dad, Eric Chisholm.
Inspired by the Area 506 Festival in Saint John, which featured a village constructed completely out of shipping containers, Chisholm sent an email to her teachers at Rothesay Netherwood School about an idea for a "shippable school."
Tia Saley was one of the teachers who received that email, and started talking with Chisholm about what she was envisioning and where she could see the project going.
Then came hurricane season in the Atlantic.
As reports started coming in about the devastation facing many island nations in the Caribbean, Chisholm now had a reason to kick her dream into action: she was going to build a school she could ship to one of the islands impacted by a hurricane.
And with the knowledge learned in a business class that focused on the basics of starting your own company, she knew how to do it.
"Heather has been working so hard putting together a budget, a timeline and looking into people who can volunteer their expertise," said Saley. "So she's really been taking the lead in that regard."
Chisholm has been in early talks with Peter MacKenzie, an architect with Comeau MacKenzie
Architecture, whose wife, Jeannie, is an alumni of the school.
MacKenzie was travelling through Newfoundland, and was not immediately available to discuss the project.
But having worked on projects in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Chisholm said Mackenzie was brought on because he would have the expertise necessary to develop designs that can work in tropical climates. Canadian wood, for example, is something Chisholm learned could not be used in the container due to termites. So, right off the bat, her initial plans for windows and desks were changing -- but that's exactly what she wanted.
"We don't want to go and burden them with this project. We really want to take the time to make sure what we're doing is what they need," she said. "We want this to be done right."
Paul McLellan, head of the school, was brought on to help with the project in its early stages, and has been working to facilitate the school's resources for Chisholm.
"For me, it's just exciting that 15- and 16-year-old kids can dream up these ideas in the summer and come to the adults in our community and actually get some traction. I think that's what education is all about."
While still in the planning phase, a lot of the final designs will come from understanding the exact location where the container is going, explained Saley.
"We've reached out to contacts in Dominica so that we can have a local affiliate down there, as well as our alumni," said Saley. "So that's what we're working on right now."
But she added that all options are still on the table.
"We don't want to impose on a community, we want to provide a niche that they need. Because we have quite a few alumnus from Dominica, and we know right now how crazy it is for them, we would love to give back to that community."
The next phase in the process is hammering down the financial side of the project, she said.
The cost of a shipping container is roughly $4,000, and the initial proposal calls for two containers. Saley said Saint John ships directly to Dominica, and they were quoted at $2,500 per container to cover shipping costs.
In total, Chisholm has worked out a rough budget of $40,000 for the project, which she hopes to get down to $20,000 with the help of volunteers and donations.
"We'd really like to reach out to the community and talk to some local companies," she said. "And we're looking at how we can get their logos on the side or maybe get their names on desks or donated school supplies. So, we're really looking at not just including the school but getting the whole community involved and bringing people together."
Jan Rutrle is a fellow Grade 10 student at the school, and has been pitching in with the rest of the Grade
10 class to plan for their first fundraiser – even joining a group to make home-made apple pie filling.
"When I found out that something like this was going to happen, I thought the idea was amazing. It's good for both sides because we learn new skills in building the school, and they get a school to learn in. And then it blew my mind even more that basically the entire project started with Heather."
The Grade 10 class will host the Farmers' Market on Sunday, open to the public. This will kick-start a series of fundraising initiatives the class will run throughout the year to hit their objectives.
Students will design and operate their own booths, with over 20 outside vendors coming in to participate as well. The event, led by Saley, was able to raise $1,600 last year. With more vendors slotted this time around, Saley is hopeful they can bump that up to $2,500.
The school will also look to the community for financial donations, or anyone who thinks they have something they can contribute - expertise or otherwise.
The project is still in its infancy, said Chisholm, and will need the community to get it off the ground and meet their objective of shipping the containers by the end of the school year in 2018.
Anyone interested in helping Chisholm with her project can reach her at: Heather.Chisholm@rns.cc