St. Thomas Aquinas students reach out to students in Africa
Published 1:04 am, Friday, April 9, 2010
When it comes to making a difference, there's no height or age requirement. People of all types can make a difference in whatever endeavor they focus their efforts.
At St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School, students have been hard at work to help less fortunate children halfway around the world -- in Nairobi, Kenya.
Last winter, the students began collecting school supplies, and educational paperback books, for The Great Hope Children's Home. Collecting was the easy part. Shipping the items across the ocean was another story.
Needing funds to ship 30 boxes (36 inches by 24 inches), the school's human relations committee decided a tag sale might do the trick. Publicized with posters, an e-mail newsletter and via the Fairfield Citizen, the tag sale was truly a success.
Cresent Kral, a social studies teacher at St. Thomas, said the plan was to raise at least $600. The school made more than double that: $1,400. As a result, the school community is now collecting clothes to send to the orphanage.
The idea of the tag sale tcame from 12-year-old Katie Quinn, a sixth grader. She couldn't believe how much money was raised. All of the items were donated by the school community and ran the gamut from stuffed animals and bicycles to lamps and golf clubs. You name it, the tag sale had it.
"It makes me feel good when I'm helping someone," Katie said. While the tag sale was for a serious cause, Katie had fun because she was participating in it with her friends.
Katie's mother Deb -- who has her own executive search firm -- employs researcher Mugure Mugo, who runs the orphanage and is able to get there two or three times a month.
"Mugure has a dear friend who started to take in children, and then she started building a house for them," Deb said. That house ultimately became the orphanage and the Italian Embassy in Kenya funds the facility, providing 35 children with two meals a day.
Tessa Gallagi, a fifth grader at St. Thomas, said her Nairobi-related assignment is one of her best assignments yet.
"I was really happy to do this because I felt very sad for the kids in Nairobi because they don't have any school supplies ... things to survive with. This was a really good assignment that I really wanted to do. And I love to help people."
Kral said the students, through their efforts, have learned about another part of the world.
"Some may never have known Nairobi was the capital," she said. "They're learning about a new culture, a new way of life." A couple of weeks ago, some of the students lost power in their homes due to powerful winds and rain. Kral said it gave the students a small taste of what the students in Korogocho, one of the poorest slums in Nairobi, deal with on a daily basis.
"Many don't have electricity. Many don't have fresh water. They don't have some of the everyday things that we take for granted," Kral said.
Tessa helped collect supplies, collect clothing, worked the tag sale and like other students at her school, has even written to the students at the orphanage.
"I love to give back," said Tessa, who acknowledged that she knows how blessed she is here in the United States.
The clothing collection drive is still taking place -- the deadline is April 26 -- and anyone who wishes to drop off lightweight clothing, including dress shoes for boys and girls, should contact the school at 203-255-0556. However, Kral said clothing cannot have logos and school girls in Nairobi do not wear pants, so donations of dresses for girls are encouraged.