The latest in the book series Chicken Soup for the Soul: Believe in Miracles features a decade old story about the efforts of a Maple Ridge school teacher who wanted to make a “real” difference with the homeless population in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside.
“I am hoping that our story motivates others to see those that are otherwise invisible in their lives and connect with compassion,” said Kristi Blakeway, now principal at Laity View Elementary.
She scheduled an outing with her students during the holiday season 10 years ago to offer food and clothes, but she realized that many organizations were repeating their efforts so she cancelled the trip.
Instead, she started Project Helping Everyone Locate Loved Ones (HELLO), a student-run initiative that helps those homeless in Vancouver reconnect with family and friends.
“The idea was simple: we would take our blank, handmade greeting cards to the streets and invite people to write to those they had lost touch with,” said Blakeway.
“Magic began and one by one, people who had not spoken with family for years, opened up and shared their stories.”
Today, there are about 20 high school students who accompany Blakeway to give back.
“Our students love to be involved,” she said. “We have about 500 students involved at Laity View Elementary who assist with making cards and creating care packages.”
Shortly after Project HELLO began Blakeway started Beyond HELLO, a personal commitment to take a homeless person to lunch each month to hear their story.
Cindy was the first woman Blakeway met.
Cindy moved to Vancouver after escaping an abusive relationship and giving a child up for adoption in Ontario.
After hearing Cindy’s story Blakeway went to work to help find her daughter, Paige.
“I speak to Cindy every month since I met her in 2013.”
An Unbreakable Bond tells the story about Cindy’s search for her daughter and Blakeway’s volunteer efforts in chapter eight of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Believe in Miracles.
“It’s an honour to have our story picked up by a reputable and popular book series,” said Blakeway. The podcast and the book share the inspiring work of my students.”