News

Mother's Values Recognized with Large Gift to Okanagan College

A $50,000 donation to the Our Students, Your Health campaign will recognize a mother who survived and found lessons in the horrors of Germany's concentration camps.

John Sokolowski has donated $50,000 towards an Early Childhood Education classroom in the College’s new Health Sciences Centre, currently under construction on its Kelowna campus. The donation is made in memory of his mother, Janina Sokolowski.

“My mom was a champion of education for as long as I can recall,” says John. “The gift to the College will help educate future Early Childhood Educators, who can teach the values of acceptance and inclusivity from an early age.”

While Janina wasn't privileged enough to receive a full education, her life experiences shaped the values her son wants to recognize.

Janina was born to a single mother in Poland where she shared a one room home with her three siblings. Her upbringing was difficult, and at age 12 she was forced to drop out of school to support herself and escape from poverty. In her late teens, Janina went to work for a Jewish family in Warsaw. During this time Janina was taken by the Nazi regime as a prisoner and sent to Auschwitz and later Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.

Janina survived in the concentration camps for two years, witnessing unimaginable atrocities and the worst of mankind. During this time she searched for inspiration on how the world could be different. She realized that education was the essential vehicle to teach people acceptance of differences, respect and consideration of all. She believed we all have a responsibility to respect each other’s rights and to protect basic freedoms for all.

Janina and her family immigrated to Canada where she was grateful for the country's open and inclusive society. She was a proud Canadian and thankful to Canada for giving her family the opportunity for prosperity and personal growth through universal education and health care.

“My mother always had a soft spot for children and so supporting Early Childhood Education would mean a lot to her,” says John.

“In her later years she also depended on the health-care system. Her back was broken in Auschwitz which created health issues for her later in life, so giving to a new Health Sciences Centre that will train future health professionals is really full circle for us as a family.”

Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director Helen Jackman says the gift is a strong investment in our community and future leaders.

“We know that qualified Early Childhood Educators have positive impact on life outcomes, from inspiring lifelong learning to improved social skills and resilience,” says Jackman.

“We’re very thankful for this investment, which will enable us to continue educating Early Childhood Educators and make it easier for parents to return to work with peace of mind.”

The College’s new $18.9-million Health Sciences Centre is a technically-advanced learning Centre to train and prepare future health care and social development professionals. The B.C. government if funding $15.4 million. The Okanagan College Foundation has set a fundraising goal of $5 million to fund the remaining building costs, purchase equipment and provide bursaries and scholarships for students entering high-demand careers.

Original article from Okanagan College