April 13 marked the 47th anniversary of one of the greatest stories of overcoming adversity and just plain making it work. In 1970, on that same date, the Apollo 13 space module sustained an onboard explosion that caused all of their systems to shut down stranding them 200,000 miles from earth on their mission to the moon.
Astronauts Jack Swigert, James Lovell, and Fred W. Haise had little choice and very few options with how they would get their craft back in operation in what became a rescue mission. With the help of the engineers at NASA mission control they patched it back together and made it back home.
One thing that stands out in rural Alberta is the “make it work” spirit you get when adversity hits. Adversity is just part of life when you’re miles from anywhere and a bump or a boulder lie in the road ahead.
One small Alberta community in east central Alberta met the challenge when facing the closure of their small rural school at the end of June. New Brigden is a farming community that is situated a short distance from the Saskatchewan border.
Parents and Members of the Prairie Rose School Division put their heads together and met the challenge head-on. Residents in the area raised an incredible $72,000 to keep the four-classroom school open; the school will be offering grades 1 to 4 in the fall.
Enrollment had dropped to four classes but it will see that it increases to six this fall with nine other children enrolled in the Kindergarten and Preschool classes. Keeping the school open will avoid adding an extra 80 kilometer round trip to Oyen; their next closest schooling option.
With some innovative and creative planning, the parents also found another way to make the school more affordable to operate. The parents will be contributing by doing routine maintenance such as mowing the grass and plowing snow. This is the innovative spirit that thrives in rural communities across this province. When things appear to be the darkest, rural folks pull out the portable floodlights and get to work.
The people in the New Brigden area have proven to be the epitome of making things work and figuring out how to make it stick. Rural communities have seen a stark decrease in population over the last two decades but it’s things like keeping a school open for local families that make remote rural Alberta more livable for families.
The residents of New Brigden have reminded us that making it work is something rural Albertans excel at. Rural Albertans are critical to the lifeblood of the Canadian agricultural industry’s success or failure, because it just doesn’t happen without these people.
The astronauts of Apollo 13 ultimately “made it work” to save their lives, while the concerned citizens who cared about a little four-classroom school on the prairie “made it work” to preserve their rural way of life.