Schools offer help to Haiti (1/21/10)

Jan. 21, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Working quickly but carefully, Calliope House student Joe Warren took a red ribbon and curled it into a bow before affixing it with a safety pin. Sitting on a beanbag in the corner of his classroom on Tuesday afternoon, Warren said the ribbon designs that he and his classmates diligently worked on were going toward a good cause.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Third and fourth grade students in Calliope House at Allen Brook School hold up ribbons they made to support Haitian earthquake victims. The ribbons sell for $1 and all proceeds will go toward earthquake relief in Haiti. For more pictures click on the link at the top of the page for Web Exclusive Photos.

Beginning this week, Calliope House students and others across Allen Brook School will be selling blue and red ribbons for $1 apiece to raise money for the victims of last week’s earthquake in Haiti. World Language students at Williston Central School will take part in a similar effort next week.

Warren said he hopes as many people as possible buy the ribbons. The more the students sell, the more money goes to help those affected by last week’s earthquake.

“We’re trying to make as many ribbons as we can and get people to buy as many as we can,” Warren said.

By the end of the school day Tuesday, Calliope House students had completed more than 500 ribbons and planned to make more throughout the week. Teacher Kathy Dodge said the money will go to organizations that send money directly to Haiti, such as the Red Cross.

“Once you let kids know there’s a need, they take off with great ideas,” Dodge said.

On Jan. 12, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, located on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. The natural disaster leveled the French-speaking country’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Government officials in Haiti estimated the death toll at 200,000.

Allen Brook has a special connection to Haiti. In 2006, a group of farmers from Haiti and the neighboring country of the Dominican Republic stopped by the school to learn better ways to teach students about sustainability. Specifically, the contingent from Hispaniola Island looked at Allen Brook’s outdoor garden — the Garden of Life — and how it teaches students about farming practices.

During the visit, organizers set up a sister school program between Allen Brook and Ecole Baptiste de Juchereau in northeast Haiti. Former kindergarten teacher Diane DiGennaro helped start the program, and she said students have sent seeds and farming tools, along with letters to Haitian students, in the past few years.

Allen Brook’s sister school escaped much of the earthquake’s destruction since it’s located far from the epicenter. But DiGennaro and Dodge said it is expected many refugees will find their way to the school to escape the desperate conditions in the capital.

“Just about everyone there knows someone or has a relative that works or lives in Port-au-Prince,” Dodge said. “This earthquake has affected everyone.”

While Allen Brook raises money with the ribbons, Williston Central will do something similar on Tuesday, according to World Language teacher Ginny Memoe. Students in the school’s World Language program will make ribbons on Jan. 26 and sell them that day to students and teachers for $1. Students across the school will also be encouraged to wear clothing consistent with Haiti’s national colors of blue and red.

Memoe said the money raised at Williston Central will go to Save the Children, an international nonprofit organization that is helping children affected by the earthquake.

While many upper house World Language students are familiar with Haiti through class work, lower house students at Allen Brook are learning firsthand about the country through the news. Dodge said many students have asked about the country and are sharing their views on seeing the destruction on television.

Calliope House student Rachel Leete said the images on television have been “scary.”

“A couple nights ago, I was watching it on TV and I said, ‘I can’t watch it anymore,’” Leete said while drawing a poster advertising the ribbons for sale.

But while she feels saddened watching the aftermath of the earthquake on television, she knows the money she raises from the ribbons will make a difference.