Haine Middle School students are banding together for Kenya, one bracelet at a time.
The project began last fall when teacher Vicki Knichel started an exploratory-learning curriculum in her sixth-grade English classes. students were assigned to groups, and each group developed a plan aimed at making the world a better place.
“It’s kind of like the real-world connection to the classroom,” Knichel said.
Gabi Kaltenberger suggested her group study issues in Kenya for their project. Her father is the pastor at , which for the last few years has led mission trips to Kandaria, a small town in Kenya.
Group members Bailey Jo Melo, Conner Ailes, and Bobby Archey, agreed with Gabi and started their research about Kenya. Some of the appeal of the project was learning about hardships faced by youths their own age. The students learned that kids in Kenya have schools that are very different from those in the United States. Many of the Kenyan students also contend with such diseases as yellow fever, malaria, and food-borne maladies.
“Their water is polluted, and so lots of their food is not good for them and so many people have diseases,” Gabi said.
Once the research project was complete, the students decided to take things a step further by designing and selling red bracelets that read “Together for Kenya."
The “Together for Kenya” bracelets, priced at $2 each, recently sold out at the school. The students sold the bracelets in the mornings and during study hall periods, and they also had a booth to display their wares during a recent open house.
The fundraiser -- which raised $730 -- will help Kenyans in the town of Kandaria address a critical issue: the location of their hospital.
“Their hospital is five miles up a hill," Gabi said.
With limited transportation, those who are injured, sick, or pregnant have to walk five miles up the hill to receive medical attention. Those who need the help most don’t always make it.
Proceeds from the bracelets will go toward a new, more conveniently located medical facility, which is slated for construction in the spring. Also, a donor agreed to match the bracelet sales dollar for dollar.
Because of the project, the students said they began to discover things Americans often take for granted.
“Kenya has lots of problems I didn’t notice,” Connor said. “(Its people are) in need of help, and I wanted to help them too.”
Knichel said there’s a beauty in seeing such student projects flourish throughout the school year. Exploratory learning, she added, sometimes has unexpected effects.
"Anything that’s student-led and student-driven, they just take off with it,” she said. “I’m just there to give them the tools that they need to succeed for it."
Knichel said she doesn’t often see dedication like this from 11- and-12-year-olds. Learning that their sale made an impact on funding for the hospital went beyond their expectations, she said.
“They took charge, and they did it all themselves,” she said. “It was wonderful to see."