Real-World Study: Raising Money for Sierra Leone Schools

Ben Fabiano has definite ideas on why his class is raising money to help build schools in Sierra Leone.

“These kids don’t really know very much because they don’t have an opportunity to go to school,” the Lowell Middle School student said. “They wake up and just go to work and try to support their families, when we have the opportunity to go and learn. They should have what the kids in the USA have, which is education.”

Hayden Stickney: “It’s not really a childhood if you have to work all day long”

Not bad for a seventh-grader. But then, many of Ben’s classmates were equally articulate about their year-long fundraiser that has collected close to $1,000 for impoverished children in Africa. Ten social studies classes are gathering funds for two villages ravaged by civil war in the 1990s, where illiteracy is high and many children work jobs instead of math problems.

“We have a lot more than we should have,” said Lauren Woodhead. “It wouldn’t hurt to build a school so they can get the same education we have.”

Not content with what they’ve so far raised through coin collections and a healthy foods sale, students recently decided to up their goal to $2,000 – no, let’s make it $3,000, they said.  

Mary Jo Buechler: “They should have more of what we have”Clearly they had caught the spirit of the project, to help others while learning about a country struggling with poverty, AIDS and the Ebola epidemic.

“The world is a village,” said teacher Tamara Hanson. “We have to care for each other. I want kids to learn that.”

A Lesson in Perspective

Hanson, along with fellow social studies teachers Lucinda Bender and Kyle Carhart, launched the project to adopt two schools in the Kono District of Sierra Leone. The money will go to Free the Children, an international charity that adopts villages in eight countries to provide education and break the cycle of poverty. The agency has built 35 classrooms in two new schools in the Kono District, and provided clean drinking water for them.

Lowell Middle students have learned of the area’s many needs as part of their study of Africa. They are reading books such as “A Long Walk to Water,” about two 11-year-olds struggling to survive in Sudan.Haley Nichols: “They can use the money to rebuild and get stuff they lost in the war”

Their lessons took on real-world meaning as students brought in tubs of coins to help the people they were studying. Observed Shea Zeck, “I thought it was cool we could bring in our money that we earned and spend it on other people instead of us.”

The project raised their awareness of America’s comfort compared to other countries and how valuable schooling is.

“I don’t think we realize how fortunate we are,” said Jenna Perry. With a good education, Jenna added, “There might be someone that has great ideas to make the world a better place.”

Ben Fabiano: “They should have what kids in the USA have”The contrast between Americans buying clothes at the mall and Africans walking miles for water was not lost on some students.

“We tend to be wasteful,” said Isiah Perysian. “Other countries struggle to find water. We take good water in the summer and dump it on ourselves.”

For Leah Bredwell, helping build schools might enable some children to share the joy she finds in books. “If the kids in Africa don’t go to school, they can never read books and get away from the world a little bit.”

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Free the Children’s Adopt-A-Village Program

Lowell Middle School

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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