Elementary School triples their goal in Ugandan fund-raiser
By Meg Ferrante
You say you want a revolution?
Start with two third grade classes giving up ice cream and chore money for a poor Ugandan child to go to school. Watch excited 8- and 9-year-olds get so generous they raise enough for two children. Add a supportive principal and an administration passionate about character education. Stand back while an entire school proceeds to raise $500, no $1,000, no $1,648 for desks and playground equipment at the Maundo, Uganda school.
“At first we said, ‘If everybody brings 50 pennies, we’d meet our goal,'" says third grade support teacher Kathy LaFayette, who introduced the idea to the school. "Originally that was $500. Then we had to move it to $1000. We blew by that.”
LaFayette says the first fund-raiser this past fall--in which three third grade classes raised $110 to send two Ugandan villager girls to school--went so well, she and Principal Jean Triplett agreed a similar effort would make a nice addition to the school-wide Character Ed program.
“We talked about how it’s great getting the girls to go to school, but for the school and the teacher, it’s not that great because that just means more and more students for them with no additional supplies. Now the school is going to benefit, too,” LaFayette says.
A portion of the money raised will be put aside for textbooks and to ensure the same girls, Patience and Eseza, can go to school next year.
To maximize funds, teachers were given an opportunity to pay $5 for two jeans/casual days, accounting for one-third of the money. Then students wrote enthusiastic letters home explaining the project to their parents and many were drawn to the idea. Thanks to his mother and grandmother pitching in, third grader Grant Cofer was a big part of Jenny Hill's class making nearly $100.
"Mom wrote a $30 check and then my grandmother brought over $7.50," Cofer says. "Another girl from my mom's work sent $15, so my grandmother sent eight more dollars." About the Ugandans benefitting from the cause Cofer says, "It's probably going to be really good for them now. I hope they have a good school just like us. I actually thought what we did was really cool because they don't have a lot of things like we do."
Angie Fowler’s fifth grade class raised around $75. “We set goals and exceeded them each week,” she says. “We had kids you don’t necessarily expect to bring anything bringing in the most. It was neat to see the pictures and help with something across the world. It helps us remember it’s not only us."
The best part, she says, was being able to instill an appreciation for school in her students. “We talked about how they value school so much more than we do because it’s not free.”
"To think that in this economy we have children, faculty, staff, parents and grandparents that still want to give to others in need even when they are half-way around the globe..." says Stacy Waldron, the counselor in charge of the Character Education program. "It just shows how vested we are in not only providing a great education to our children, but helping those who quest and thirst for knowledge. I just get choked up when I think of our kids giving to other children – our kids are amazing."
So about that revolution?
The project is having a ripple effect. Larry Rhodes, the volunteer worker in Africa who helped LaFayette get connected with the schoolgirls in need, sent the power point production he used with LaFayette (which she then shared with the whole school) to all his stateside contacts. He’s challenging others to beat MCES’ effort.
In addition, MCES’ money will go wherever possible to local providers, including a carpenter in the village of Maundo who will be making the desks, thus infusing the local economy with some much-needed cash.
LaFayette says everyone in Maundo is overjoyed. Her friend Rhodes is floored by the effort.
“He was just amazed. They’re just so excited," she says. "A representative from the village emailed me and says to please tell the teachers, staff and students how much they appreciate it. He says, ‘We want to thank you for your big hearts.'’’
PHOTO BY M. FERRANTE
FUND-RAISER Fourth grader Frances Smith gave $3 from her piggy bank toward the effort to raise funds for a school in Maundo, Uganda. She said the money was hard to give away but worth it. "It's pretty interesting to be helping another part of the world," she says.
Published in the February 19, 2009 edition.