Claire Welikoklad, a student at Notre Dame High School in Red Deer, recently received the Humanitarian Service Award Scholarship from A Better World, for her humanitarian work in Kenya and Rwanda.
“I was very shocked that I got it,” she said. “I didn’t expect that I would get the scholarship. I was really excited and ecstatic about getting it because it is kind of a big accomplishment.”
Welikoklad, who documented her experience and submitted it to A Better World, said that her experiences in Africa changed the way she views the world.
“Going to Kenya and Rwanda is obviously extremely different than living in Red Deer. It was life-changing because a lot of people don’t have the chance to see the things that happen,” she said.
Arriving in Africa, Welikoklad was expecting people’s attitudes to represent the difficult conditions that are often how the African continent is portrayed. This was not the case.
“You wouldn’t expect people living in such poor conditions to be always excited about getting up in the morning. They were always happy and well-dressed. They always had a smile on their faces and it was fun to see all the people,” she said.
During her time overseas, Welikoklad visited many schools throughout Kenya and Rwanda, which gave her the opportunity to interact with African students who were eager to learn about her life in Canada.
“I made booklets that had Canadian wildlife and pictures of lakes and mountains,” she said.
“We would go to the classrooms and show the kids the booklets and talk about the names of the animals and what they eat. The teachers got to keep the booklets at the end.”
The students would ask her about Canada and were excited to show her around their schools, many of which were recently built. Welikoklad was humbled by the experience.
“I am definitely way more grateful about everything I have after seeing how little they have. They are grateful for everything they have even if it is just a pair of shoes,” she said.
This humility has led to Welikoklad seeing western culture as a little decadent in comparison.
“You think about your school compared to the schools there,” she said. “We have technology and computers and it made me think that we don’t need all the stuff that we have.
“Other places could be way better off if they had some of the stuff that we have.”
Welikoklad said she would love to go back to Africa again.
“It was fun to be able to tell people when I got back how the experience changed my life and hopefully other people will want to go or donate to the people,” she said.
She added she is unsure what she intends to do after high school, however, she is confident the scholarship will go towards a post-secondary education.