A Grade 9 Lake Trail student and founder of non-profit Gimme Shelter opened the Affordable Housing and Homelessness forum with a inspirational speech.
“What inspires me is that we are here as one community, and we need to solve this problem as one community,” Rachael Jankowski began last Wednesday. “I got given a project at school to find what bothers me and to do something about it, but I didn’t know what bothered me.
“It wasn’t till I was waiting outside of Edible Island with my mom, when a homeless person came up to me and my mom and asked for food. What are you supposed to feel when there is someone asking you for food?
“I was upset, overwhelmed and I wanted to do something about it,” Jankowski continued.
After Jankowski talked to more people in the community, even talking in front of Courtenay council about the things that were being done about homelessness, she was outraged with what she was hearing.
“There was people helping, but nothing was being done.”
Jankowski plans to make a difference in the community for today but also tomorrow. She started in June with an art show that gathered more funds than expected to help the ball get rolling on Care Packages that will carry toothbrushes, toothpaste and more.
“I really hope that the youth get more involved with Gimme Shelter, and even though I’m only 14 years old, it’s just a number. I want to inspire people because I care about our future,” said Jankowski.
Judging from the reaction of some adults, she is succeeding.
She mentioned local man named Dave Randall, saying that he was there for every crazy decision that she made.
Jankowski also mentioned Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard of Courtenay as a female role model who she looks up to.
The feeling is mutual.
In an interview during the forum at the Filberg Centre, event organizer Leonard explained how Rachael and Gimme Shelter, formed to help homeless people, inspired her.
“Her age, I was blown away with what she had come up with because her ideas were so developed,” Leonard said.
Leonard added that when she was younger she hadn’t thought of doing anything like helping out and volunteering was enough for her.
Her advice for other people with ideas of their own is be brave and just go do it.
Leonard thinks that Gimme Shelter will grow and develop, as Rachael has a good idea of what she wants to happen, although she thinks it could go in a few different directions also.
Leonard learned about Jankowski when she contacted the councillor for information about homelessness in the Comox Valley, which also inspires Ronna-Rae because she engaged with people who can make decisions.
“I’m kinda loathe to give Rachael advice because she’s done such a tremendous job and it has grown so much over the past few months, she is really dedicated and very confident. These are the key things that make her continue to be successful,” said Leonard.
Hailee Jones is a Grade 10 student at Lake Trail Middle School who is considering a journalism career.