February 11, 2004 - Florida Times Union: Fleming Island students sends help to the Gambia RPCV Elizabeth Frame to build school

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Gambia: Peace Corps The Gambia : The Peace Corps in the Gambia: February 11, 2004 - Florida Times Union: Fleming Island students sends help to the Gambia RPCV Elizabeth Frame to build school

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Fleming Island students sends help to the Gambia RPCV Elizabeth Frame to build school

Fleming Island students sends help to the Gambia RPCV Elizabeth Frame to build school

Young students offer aid Fleming Island school sends help to Gambia

Feb 11, 2004

Florida Times Union

racy Spengler, Clay County Line Correspondent

Most children in Clay County probably couldn't imagine what it would be like to go to a school that was essentially nothing more than a mud hut. They can't fathom not having furniture such as desks and chairs, not to mention modern technology. And they certainly couldn't imagine having only rice to eat, let alone, going hungry.

Fleming Island Elementary students are no exception, and thanks to a former teacher they are learning how blessed they are.

Elizabeth Frame is a former FIE teacher who, for the past 18 months, has been serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Gambia, a small country in West Africa, working for the regional education office.

"During this trek, I had the opportunity to talk to headmasters, teachers and students regarding their concerns for this year," Frame wrote in a letter to FIE in October. "Some of their concerns were lack of furniture, school supplies, proper buildings, kitchens for food and latrines. Most of their needs would only take a small amount of money to fulfill. So I thought I would ask if Fleming Island would be interested in a quarters drive fund-raiser to help the students in Gambia."

After receiving the request, the FIE student council was on the job, spreading the word and showing photos of the destitute conditions in Gambia.

"The kids just went wild with the idea of raising money for these poor children," said Laurie Tucker, who oversees the school's student council and works as a guidance counselor. "Their conditions are like on Gilligan's Island -- just not as nice. It's like walking back in time 2,000 years. Our organization is about making the world a better place. The kids here are really learning empathy as well."

From Dec. 2 through Dec. 17, the student council went "hog wild" with their quarter drive, hoping every student would send in at least $1 in quarters.

"We were just overwhelmed with the response," Tucker said. "We raised $1,717.75."

While that amount is impressive, what many children did not know was that amount translated into more than $51,000 in Gambian currency.

"One of our American dollars is approximately equivalent to $30 in their country," Tucker said. "This may be more money than they've ever seen."

Student Council President Katie Eckhardt was glad she could be a part of the fund-raiser.

"I feel grateful for all that I have, but a little guilty at the same time," Eckhardt said. "I think we all take things for granted in this country."

Student Council member Jamie Ehlen shared her feelings, as well.

"The kids over there may only have one pair of shoes," Ehlen said. "It's really hot over there, and they need new tables and chairs -- they need so much. I'm glad that this money can help the kids in Gambia. I feel proud of what we've done."

The biggest immediate need for the Gambian children that Frame is working with is furniture.

"Literally, the kids are sitting on a dirt floor in some of the schools," Tucker said.

Seeing the pictures of the deplorable conditions really hit some of the FIE children hard, including third-grader Sarah Nichols.

"I got $32 for my birthday, but I donated it all toward the Gambia project," Nichols said. "Their schools are all broken down. They need the money a lot more than I do."

Fourth-grader Katie Neeper also was happy that the money raised can help the Gambian children have a better quality of life.

"If I were them, I'd feel pretty good," Neeper said. "It's like having a new life."

The money will go into a grant for furniture, as well as a hen house and various community awareness projects to help Gambian women become income generators.

"I cannot thank Fleming Island enough for their generosity, dedication, and support for this project," Frame said. "Thousands of students in Gambia will be affected due to the kindness of Fleming Island students."

Funds from Fleming Island will be used to contract out woodworking classes from the Senior Secondary Schools to build the furniture, Frame said.

"This way the money will remain within the schools and the students in the woodworking classes will benefit from the skills learned," she said.

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Story Source: Florida Times Union

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Gambia



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