Students’ pennies add up to help for Philippines

Dec. 09, 2013 @ 10:44 AM

Every little bit helps and that includes pennies.

As the people of the Philippines work to rebuild and clean up following Typhoon Haiyan Barbara Brunson’s fifth-grade class at Seawell Elementary raised money to aid in the relief effort, one penny at a time.
“Every day as part of social studies we watch CNN Student News for current events. I was aware of the typhoon but I wasn’t sure they were,” Brunson said. “Once they saw the devastation in the Philippines and realized that one of our students is Filipino, it made it personal and something that wasn’t so far away.
“They wanted to help,” Brunson said. “They brainstormed several ideas and discussed them as a class and said we’ll just collect spare change and bring that in and challenge the other classes.”
The student with family in the Philippines is Celina Olesco. The 10-year-old said that she found out about Haiyan with her mother.
“I was watching news with my mom and we saw the picture from space of the storm and we knew it was going to be terrible,” Olesco said. “It’s just really sad seeing other families because they don’t have a home or food or family so we came up with this project.
Brunson explained that Olesco’s older brother flew out to help their grandmother, whose home was flooded during the typhoon. Olesco said that things are going much better now.
“It feels really great and it makes me happy because it’s my parents’ home country,” she continued. “It’s happy because we can give back and that’s the most important part.”
The class issued a school-wide challenge to other classes to help raise money. Four classes, mostly kindergarten and first grade agreed to help. The combined five classes raised $489.15 in pocket change in one week.
Most of the class had made a donation to the fund drive and they took various routes to make sure they were able to help.
“I’ve been going around the neighborhood and telling people that we’re raising money and getting donations,” said Amelia Pace.
“I saw an opportunity to help the Philippines so when I got home I asked my parents and got as much money as I could from my allowance to help them,” Evan Miles said.
Both Shaan Narayan and Kaia Crisp said they went to their parents to help them support the families recovering in the Philippines.
Brunson said that the group has been very diligent with its efforts. A class whose hero is Malala Yousafzai, it’s not hard to understand their desire to help others.
“The children have such a great capacity for empathy and this is the age that allows them to tangibly show that,” Brunson said. “It shows them that they’re not powerless and that just because they’re children doesn’t mean they can’t help.”
Seawell Principal Marny Ruben sees this sort of effort as proof that the students are truly becoming global citizens.
“I was really happy that this came from the students,” she said. “This is one of the rare times that the students have generated the idea to make it a school effort.
“This project combines two of our major school-wide initiatives in a really nice way,” Ruben said. “While global awareness is certainly in play, the students also exhibit great character development qualities such as empathy, service and leadership.
“It also lets me know that our global awareness efforts are working, that our students are globally aware, 21st century learners,” she added. “This just says to me that the kids are leaning what it takes to do that.”