FAIRFIELD — In the past month, students from throughout Fairfield have worked to collect funds, supplies and books to send to a school in Sierra Leone.
The project is the result of a conversation between Fairfield Woods Middle School social studies teacher Alice Warren and her daughter, Kate Laursen, a volunteer with the Peace Corps in the West African nation.
Laursen’s school lacks many resources needed to provide an education to its 70 students. Warren and Laursen came up with an idea for a schoolwide campaign to collect 1,000 books, initiated by Woods seventh-grade health teachers Cathy Hamill and Tina Bengermino.
“For about three or four weeks, kids did bake sales and other fundraisers,” Hamill said.
In addition, on a visit back to the states, Laursen visited Woods and shared information to social studies and health classes on Sierra Leone and her school, much of which was surprising to students.
“When we got pictures and looked at the school and how small it was but saw how happy they seemed, even though at most the students had a pencil,” seventh-grader Griffin Dodder said.
“We take our public schools for granted. We pay for our education through taxes, but for them, they have to pay a yearly fee and a lot of families can’t,” said Will Passarelli, also in seventh grade.
In addition to Woods, donations were collected by Fairfield Warde High School, Jennings, Stratfield, North Stratfield Elementary schools, Fairfield Prep, Fairfield University, as well as the Fairfield Public Libraries.
Students organized bake sales, raffles and organized drop-offs. Together, they raised more than $1,000 that will help ship of 2,000 books through California-based African Library Project, a group that organizes school book drives in the U.S. that help establish libraries for schools and villages in Africa.
“We just finished counting and boxing the book according to reading level,” Hamill said. This summer, the books will make their way to Sierra Leone.
But more than just sending books and supplies, the Fairfield students hope to forge relationships with their African peers. Students in social studies teacher Craig Krushinski’s class are part of a pen pal program. They recently sent their first letter, in which many documented their day-to-day lives in America, and are eager to hear back in the coming weeks.
“I feel like this project has both benefited them and us,” seventh-grader Karla Nahme said.
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