Sunday, May 24, 2009

Treasure Mountain School In Park City, Utah Not Just Making Daisy Chains For Mayors: They're Collecting 11 Million Pennies For Orphans In Uganda

In a recent post, I discussed a project at Bennion Junior High School in Taylorsville, Utah in which middle school students documented their kind acts on paper for an entire school year, organized them into a mile-long daisy chain, and presented it to the city's mayor. While I commended the students for their concern and their teamwork, I criticized the responsible adults for directing the students towards expressing it in such an irrelevant fashion. I wonder if Mayor Russ Wall has figured out what to do with that "daisy chain" yet?

But according to the Deseret News, it's a different story at the Treasure Mountain International School in Park City. While their students are showing the same concern and teamwork as those at Bennion, the responsible adults have directed their efforts into a project far more relevant and meaningful. They are collecting pennies.

Specifically, 11 million pennies for 11 million orphans. Each penny represents an orphan in Africa, where there are 11 million orphans. Their goal is to collect 11 million pennies and send them to Africa to help them improve the quality of their life. The money — 11 million pennies translates to $110,000 — is earmarked for St. Johnson Primary School in Uganda, a school/orphanage that recently became Treasure Mountain's sister school. Leading the charge is Michelle Stratton's eighth-grade English class, although the whole school is participating.

The spark for Pennies for Uganda was lit in April 2009 when a Ugandan, David Ssejinja, visited Park City and spoke to the students about the plight of school kids in Africa. War and AIDS are the biggest orphan-makers there, he explained, and every day hundreds of youngsters arrive at schools like St. Johnson — empty-handed and penniless. The Treasure Mountains students, many of who come from privileged families, had their consciences pricked and donned their thinking caps.

Ms. Stratton urged her students to brainstorm a way to help, and Ben Belfort came up with the idea of collecting pennies. Earlier in the year, the students had studied the Holocaust and how a group of middle-schoolers in Tennessee had started a paperclip project to gather enough paperclips to represent the purported six million Jewish Holocaust victims lost in World War II. But Belfort saw through that scheme, and suggested collecting pennies instead. "Paperclips wasn't going to help anybody. We needed something that would benefit others", said Belfort.

So far, they've collected more than 300,000 pennies. And that's counting the week the school was closed down because of swine flu. But those of you reading this post can participate in their campaign by mail if you want - and you don't have to send pennies. Send a donation by check or money order, in care of the Ssejinja Children's Foundation, to:

Attn: Ms. Stratton's class
Treasure Mountain International School
2530 Kearns Boulevard
Park City, UT 84060

It looks like some kids down in Tampa, Florida are running their own Pennies for Uganda campaign as well.

Yes, I know we have kids here in America who need help. But why spoil it for these kids by bringing politics into the equation? These kids are doing the right thing, and it is relevant and meaningful. We can resume the "Fix America First" campaign in a different post.

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