Chess as comfort at Our Lady of Lourdes

Students from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in St. James Town participated in a free after-school chess club, offered in response to the fire in August that left many families in hotels and shelters.

Most of the students who attend Our Lady of Lourdes school are residents of the St. James Town neighborhood. The fire that forced them out of their homes occurred just as back-to-school preparations were being made. For the families this meant that their children would have to transition into a new school year without their familiar home bases, and for many, without even the most basic needs such as clothing and school supplies.

For the school, added to the regular business of the launch of a new school year, was the task of addressing the effects of the fire on their community. Many OLOL families were now without home addresses, internet, and in some cases school clothes and supplies. As well as welcoming students and staff to the school, the school admin and parent council were collecting donations of clothing, toiletries and school supplies to distribute to students whose families were forced out of their homes by the fire. It was a challenging and stressful time for the school and its community.

CIC’s mission is to use the ancient and universal game of chess as a platform to overtly explore and develop the skills that are inherent in the learning and playing of the game – skills that can enhance and improve academic and social success. As Canada’s only chess-based charity, our objective is to bring these benefits, as well as the fun and connections that can be made through chess, to as many people as possible, especially to those in challenging situations.

The VP of OLOL had been in discussion with CIC about bringing a funded in-class chess program to the students on OLOL this year. When the fire happened, the discussion expanded to include more ways that CIC could use chess to provide a safe, stimulating place for children and families to spend time while their homes were being made safe to return to.

On Oct 23, 2018, CIC launched a free after-school chess club open to all students in the school. For 8 weeks, approximately 55 children a week come to the free chess club for an hour and a half of chess instruction, life-skills building activities, chess playing, and individual instruction.

While chess skills included a review of castling, training on applying opening principles, and practice using mating nets in the endgame, off-the-board activities included “find the king within” to find inner focus, and “captured pawn pose” to find inner serenity.

The program has been met with great enthusiasm by children and their families.