As images from the devastation caused by a horrific tsunami continue to be a focus on news broadcasts and Web sites, one school’s students are working together to raise funds for those in need.
The Leadership Club at Pimmit Hills School, consisting of students ranging from 18-26 and coming from all over the world, have decided to raise funds to be given to a charitable organization to benefit those who live in the affected areas.
Last month, the Club worked in conjunction with the McLean Rotary Club to adopt a family of seven to provide Christmas presents and gift cards, collecting several carloads of gifts from students in the school.
“We went to a luncheon at the McLean Rotary, and they had this idea to adopt a family. I thought it would be a nice idea to contribute, so we discussed it with the Leadership Club and they agreed,” said student Kadija Jalloh.
“The students did all the collecting (of gifts) on their own and would come up to me with handfuls of cash, which we used to purchase a Giant gift card,” said Didi Crowder, career development coordinator, who oversees the group.
“The Rotary Club was providing gifts and food for the same family, and I’m not sure where the family was going to put all the presents we gave them,” Crowder said. “They also bought all of the kids a bike and some clothes too.”
The family, a mother and six children ranging in age from 5-16 were no doubt surprised by the show of generosity.
“We made an ad and put it in the office and classrooms,” said Uloma Anyamele-Obioha, another member of the Club. “Some teachers bought presents. We campaigned for it.”
Another member of the staff had put up a Christmas tree with paper ornaments, a wish list for each member of the family, so the students and faculty had an idea of what the family needed, Crowder said.
“We got a really good response,” said Jalloh. “The teachers want to take it over next year.”
“We’ll adopt our own family instead of working with Rotary,” Crowder said
The students, still feeling the heartwarming effects of their first charitable act, were quick to take on another: collecting money for tsunami-ravaged areas of India and Indonesia.
“WHEN WE CAME BACK from winter break, we discussed at our first meeting different ways to raise funds to help,” said Jalloh. “We have different people from different cultures and backgrounds here. We were sure there’s someone here affected by it.”
Sure enough, she learned from her English teacher that a student lost two cousins, residents of Thailand, in the tsunami.
“I talked with our principal, and she went with the school’s finance person to approach the county to set up a special fund through the school,” Crowder said. Normally schools are not allowed to hold fund-raisers to benefit charities, but the county made a special exemption. The only other time this type of arrangement was allowed was immediately following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, she said.
“The students will figure out when and how they want to do the fund-raising,” she said.
“We’re a small school. That makes it easier to talk to people,” Obioha said.
“It was the images on the TV. … I’ve never seen something as unfortunate as that, children being swept away,” Jalloh said of why the tsunami victims became their next project.
“When you hear children are being taken away to be sex slaves or sold into slavery, you feel you have to do something about it to help,” said Heruy Woldeselassie, one of the students who initially proposed the Christmas project.
The students felt a moral and sometimes spiritual obligation to hold the fund-raiser.
“If you’re a religious person, any religion encourages you to do what you can to help others. If you’re not a religious person, it’s the feeling of helping out another human being,” said Mustafa Akhound, another member of the Club.
“Right now, we have something. We have to return it. That’s how we humans will survive. If I give $10, and he gives $10 and another person gives $10, together it will become $100, and that will help,” he said.
“The school system sent us a Web site of charities, and the Club will select which charity the money they raised will go to,” Crowder said.
Many of the students at Pimmit feel a connection to the victims of the tsunami, coming from war-torn countries, fleeing dead bodies and immense poverty to pursue a better life in America.
“They have unbelievable stories,” Crowder said of her students. “This is an absolutely phenomenal group of young men and women, and they’ve made a huge impact on my life.”
The fund-raiser has not officially begun at the school, Crowder said, adding that the Leadership Club will be holding a meeting soon to debate how long the fund-raiser will be held. Anyone who would like to donate to the school’s efforts is welcome to contact her at the school at 703-506-2230, or by e-mail at Didi.Crowder@fcps.edu.