Md. students help beleaguered Kenyans

More than 180 crates filled with school supplies

March 23, 2001|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Tricia Penner and her classmates at Robert Poole Middle School spent mornings, lunch periods and afternoons selling pink paper hearts to raise money for kids in a far-away African country.

The Baltimore pupils collected enough funds that they filled a 50-gallon crate with 500 pencils, 300 pens, 20 spiral notebooks, 640 crayons, 140 erasers -- and other supplies most Americans don't think twice about.

"We ball up paper that other people would love to have just because we made one mistake," said Penner, a 13-year-old eighth- grader. "I feel good about giving stuff to other children who can't have the things we have."

Penner joined hundreds of students from across Maryland yesterday in donating more than 180 chests filled with school supplies that will be shipped to Kenya, a country of 30 million people who have suffered tribal wars, drought and disease.

They were taking part in a daylong conference on public service, a requirement for high school graduation in Maryland.

"I think it's great that we can help people who need it a lot more than we do," said Aaron Cole, 16, a sophomore at North Carroll High School in Hampstead.

The School Chest Initiative, sponsored by the American Red Cross, inspired the participants to do more than donate pencils and notebooks to Kenyan schoolchildren. Some schools held "Kenya Days." Pupils at Howard County's Dunloggin Middle School painted a mural illustrating Kenya's leaders, landscape and tribes.

Students in a child-care class at Baltimore's Southern High School used the school chest project as a lesson in comparison shopping. They hunted for bargains at Wal-Mart, Valu-City, the Dollar Store and other discount stores and filled two chests for $83.93 each -- significantly less than the $280 to $437 that the Red Cross estimated it would cost to supply a chest.

Southern students donated eight chests in all.

"It shows that you can reach out and help someone," said senior Chantelle Smithrick, 17. "By participating in this project, I feel like I have accomplished something."

Most schools packed their supplies in oversized plastic containers and delivered them to Villa Julie College, host of the service conference.

Bill Clarke, project coordinator for the Red Cross, said each chest was supposed to contain notebooks, pencil sharpeners, drawing paper, compasses, rulers, crayons, jump ropes, colored chalk and other items.

Students at Patterson High in the city added a diagram showing how to play hopscotch.

"Each [chest] took a significant amount of time, so if we have five chests here or 150 chests, the amount of work is still extraordinary," Clarke said.

At Robert Poole Middle in Hampden, pupils cut out and sold 10-cent paper "Hearts for Kenya" -- 3,028 of them -- to raise money for the supplies.

"I'm happy about what we did," said Kaitlyn Frick, 13, an eighth-grader there. "Now, thanks to us, [Kenyan children] have a chance at getting a better education."

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