Students buck religious boundaries to help homeless

Today, Grade 6 and 7 independent school students from Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy and Richmond Jewish Day School plan to hand out 1,000 lunches to people in need of help in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside as part of Random Acts of Kindness week also coinciding with Pink Shirt Day.

"We wanted to go out and do something for our community - not the Muslim or the Jewish communities per se - and this is where we got a lot of sponsors to help us out," said Az-Zahraa teacher Jessie Claudio.

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The two schools are near one another on No. 5 Road and Claudio partnered with Jewish Day School teacher Shoshana Burton to accomplish the lunch project. The two procured help and sponsors from the community, namely Save-On-Foods Ironwood, whose manager, George Clarke, supplied the lunches.

The students visited one another on Tuesday morning to prepare the meals. Each bag has a note on it saying, "You have been RAKed."

The students also invited their grandparents to their respective schools in the afternoon for tea and snacks.

Wednesday is the community themed day of RAK week and the culmination of the students' hard work collaborating together.

Both teachers were thrilled at the response from the students, especially the fact that religion - an all too common barrier in life - wasn't a factor for them.

"The reaction exceeded my expectation. Every time we get them together we have to pull them apart," said Burton.

As a result of such events, the two schools have formed a bond and have begun to learn about their commonalities as opposed to their differences.

To exemplify such commonalities, the two schools look to the religious figure Abraham, who is a soul formed in the image of kindness, hospitality and generosity in both Judaism and Islam.

"They're always wanting to be together now," said Claudio.

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