Students continue projects to give to Haiti relief efforts
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 3, 2010 1:46 PM
Students across Wayne County have been and still are actively working to send aid to the victims of the January earthquake in Haiti. In this photo, from left, Wayne School of Engineering students Brittani Johnson, Janise Lainer, Darryl Lewis and Jada Eason form an assembly line to package meal packs that will be sent to Haiti. The school estimated that enough packages -- each feeds about six people -- were made to provide food for at least 1,600 Haitians.
The situation is Haiti is a "teachable moment" for students, Wayne County educators say.
Global disasters provide a hands-on opportunity for teachers to work with students on history-in-the-making, they say. It's also a prime time to instill messages about compassion and reaching out to others in need.
The Wayne County Public Schools has responded to the disaster, with nearly half of the schools across the county announcing plans to participate in relief efforts.
"It's something that even little people can do," said Vicki Phillips, counselor at Meadow Lane Elementary School. "Everyone can make a difference -- caring and kindness, certainly, always that can reach people all over the world with just a little effort."
The school is hosting a penny drive, encouraging students and staff to contribute as they are able. Large plastic water jugs are being placed in the school's lobby, and one of Meadow Lane's business partners, N.C. Community Federal Credit Union, will pool the resources and count the money at the conclusion.
All proceeds will go to the MERCI Center, Ms. Phillips said.
Such outreach projects are not uncommon at Wayne School of Engineering, said Principal Gary Hales.
"We want the kids to see the world beyond Wayne County and we're trying to show them, with community service, that they can make a difference in the lives of others and it's not always just about them," he said. "That's a part of what we try to do here.
"Our students have to volunteer as sophomores and juniors and seniors every year, so we try to breed that sense of community here, that they can help others and to help them grow themselves as people in a rewarding experience."
Earlier in the school year, students participated in "homelessness in a box," allowing students to experience on a small scale what it was like to live on the streets. The project raised their consciousness, as well as donations for the local shelter and soup kitchen.
When the earthquake struck Haiti, it quickly became the students' choice for another effort, said Tiffiany Nurse, advisor of the school's Agricultural Research Club.
"The kids were amazed -- they had no idea that people in third-world countries, how many people die a day just because they don't get enough to eat," she said.
Taking $300 raised from the club's fall festival, plus another $100 donation that came in since, the group contacted a representative from Stop Hunger Now, who worked with students to package meals to be sent to Haiti.
"He came out and brought rice, dehydrated vegetables, a vitamin pack, soy-based meal, and we actually filled it up and packaged it out," Ms. Nurse said. "He informed us that one packaged meal is enough for six people."
The students had an assembly line going to complete the task. It was estimated that they put together enough meals for 1,600 people, Hales said.
"For me, it was kind of touching," Ms. Nurse said. "But the kids got to see why it was important to help people."
"One of the students made the statement that they wished they could (help someone) every week," the principal added.
The Student Government Association and Basic Skills Dream Team at Wayne Community College spearheaded a drive to raise money for the American Red Cross. Various clubs and organizations also participated in the effort, selling lapel ribbons in Haiti flag colors for $1 each for students and staff to wear in support. So far the effort has raised more than $1,225, which has been donated to the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Cleaning up in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake is going to take months, maybe years. So, likely, will efforts stateside.
Schools in the county are formulating their own strategies to help.
Grantham School and Greenwood Middle School will participate in this year's Pennies for a Purpose, with proceeds given directly to the Red Cross, sponsor of the annual project.
Carver and Spring Creek elementary schools have partnered with Mathnasium to collect supplies. Spring Creek will create health kits, with each grade level responsible for certain items, while the student council will compile everything and donating them to the Merci Center.
At Northwest Elemen-tary, each grade level brought in a specific items as part of a care package, to be shipped out to workers in Haiti.
For example, kindergarten students were responsible for a hand towel and wash cloth; first graders, toothpaste and toothbrush; second grade, metal nail file and nail clippers; and third-graders, bar soap.
The week of Feb. 8-12 will become "Spread the Love Week" at North Drive Elementary. Suggested donations for students is a dime, while staff have been asked to bring a dollar. Each donor will receive a heart sticker to wear as a symbol of their love and support, with proceeds to benefit the "Save the Children" effort.
On Feb. 8, Eastern Wayne Middle Elementary will hold "100 at 100" event, with a goal of putting together 100 care packages on the 100th day of school.
Rosewood Middle School has collection jars throughout the school and in classrooms for a fundraising drive students have dubbed "Change to Cause Change."
"Dollars for Haiti" is the theme at Tommy's Road Elementary, where the school is currently raising money, in coordination with the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Brogden Middle School SGA is participating in a collection drive as part of DoSomething.org and Aéropostale's "Jeans for Teens" drive to collect jeans for earthquake victims. Gently-worn jeans can be dropped off at any Aéropostale store until Feb. 14.
Dillard Middle School already held their collection drive last month, bringing in non-perishables, medical supplies and clothing.
Other schools who have also announced plans to partner in a relief activity so far include Charles B. Aycock and Goldsboro high schools and Mount Olive Middle School.