Souris School teacher, Jonathan Filewich, carries on an annual tradition every November, leading his Grade 5/6 students in honoring those who gave their lives in the Canadian Forces, through the No Stone Left Alone (NSLA) initiative.
"Through No Stone Left Alone, you have a program very similar to a Remembrance Day program at school," shares Filewich. "But after the program we go to the Souris cemetery and lay a poppy on every single stone of anyone who has ever served for their country. We built a relationship with the Legion here in Souris, and they come out and they tell us of every single stone of the veterans and all of those who have served, and we lay a poppy down."
A few years ago, former Souris student, Ryan Lawson, moved to Brandon and started the initiative in his Brandon school after hearing about the program which began in Alberta. Filewich was touched by the idea of commemorating fallen soldiers before Remembrance Day through a personal and tangible way for his students, and through the school.
"Through conversation with him [Ryan Lawson] it was something I really wanted to bring to Souris," explains Filewich,
That was 3 years ago.
"This is actually the first year that the students are going to go to our local Legion afterwards. They'll be given some snacks and then they'll work on their Remembrance Day posters right in the Legion. So, it's a full day event here at Souris School," he adds. "It grew from someone who was going to Souris School and the students really look forward to it."
It was the founder, Maureen Bianchini Purvis' mission to see that one day all of the soldiers' headstones would have a poppy placed in their honour, with truly No Stone Left Alone.
Maureen's mother was a veteran of the Canadian military, and very ill in 1971 when Maureen was 12 years old. Her mother asked her not to forget Armistice Day (the anniversary date of the armistice agreement that ended the First World War on November 11, 1918). Each year after her mother's death, Maureen would lay a poppy at her mother's grave. This annual tradition would later include her husband and daughters, to which her daughters would one day ask why the other headstones had no poppies on them.
Her daughters' question inspired Maureen to contact the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Minister of Education, and she received a positive response from both. 'No Stone Left Alone was officially launched in 2011 to help ensure an enduring national respect and gratitude for the sacrifice of the Canadian men and women who have lost their lives in the service of peace, at home and abroad,' states their website.
Last year 7,702 students from 88 communities placed 67,171 poppies in 131 ceremonies through the NSLA initiative, marking 10 years of honoring Canadian soldiers who gave their lives in service for their country.
No Stone Left Alone, their vision: 'Our youth, remembering Canada's veterans, every year, forever'
Filewich says students and their families have to come appreciate 'No Stone Left Alone' as it brings attention to family members who served in the Canadian military over the many years and in the many different countries, bringing history and family connections to life.
The Souris School Grade 5/6 classes will be holding their ceremony on Tuesday of this week, November 8th.
For more information on No Stone Left Alone, visit the website here.
Please listen to more of the interview with Souris School Grade 5/6 teacher, Jonathan Filewich below.