Fifth graders fundraise for refugees

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Creating a fundraising agenda by selling a local commodity, constructing presentations to urge donors to give money and dividing and allocating funds towards buying materials are all things that organizations do around the world. This isn’t as common, however, for a class of 5th graders.

After reading the book Refugee by Allen Gratz, Charlene Babb’s 5th-grade reading class at Sorenson Magnet School of the Arts and Humanities was inspired to go beyond just reading a book and wanted to help refugees in the area.

“I have to say that once we finished the book, we were all in tears,” said Kaya, one of Mrs. Babb’s students.

With the help of global technology developer Brinnon Mandel who was able to provide more insight into the refugee experience, the class spent a month planning the project and fundraising money so that they could create drawstring bags filled with supplies that refugees may need as they resettle in Spokane.

How did they raise such a large chunk of the money? Selling popsicles.

“We sold 281 Otter Pops just on our playground,” said Maiya.

The kids also created presentations at the Art Spirit Gallery in downtown Coeur d’Alene to urge donors to help their cause.

“I looked up refugee stories to tell and then gave information about what we were doing and what would happen if they donated,” said Vivi, one of the students who presented at the gallery.

Thanks, in part, to an anonymous donor giving the last $150, the kids raised their goal of $500 to start putting bags together.

After reaching out to World Relief Spokane to determine what kinds of items should be put in the bag, the kids quickly began to research bargains online so that they could get the best deals for their money.

“I came into class one day and they were all on Amazon trying to find where they could get the most stuff,” said Mrs. Babb.

In the end, three of the students volunteered to go to the Dollar Store together and pick out the bags’ items. Although the kids were hoping to find ten items per bag, they were so excited to find sales that would allow them to buy even more. The Dollar Store also donated the drawstring bags they could use to actually put everything in.

As the kids reached the check-out line with six heaping carts, a woman in front of them asked the students what they were doing. After they explained, the woman was inspired and donated an extra $24 to the cause.

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“It felt really good to know the whole community wanted to help contribute to us,” said Amalie.

The kids created two types of bags, one for any refugee and one for families. The bags were filled to the brim with cleaning supplies and hygiene items, both of which recently-resettled refugees need greatly.

After the students filled the bags completely, World Relief Spokane’s Jackson Lino came to pick up them up and share his story about being a refugee in South Sudan.

The kids anxiously listened as Jackson explained how he came to the United States when we were just a little older than the kids in the room and how, when he was their age, he would have to walk 13 miles twice a day to provide his family with water.

The kids had several questions afterward and were able to ask about his journey, refugee camps, what American culture was like to an outsider and more.

Then, the kids excitedly loaded all of the bags into Jackson’s car.

As so often happens when we choose to serve, the students felt that they got something out of the project as well: a new perspective.

“Not everyone has what we have; we are so lucky to have parents, homes, beds, blankets and lights;” said Lola, one of the 5th graders. “Not everyone has that and that’s just how the world works.”

Mariah Reneau, World Relief Spokane’s Digital Communications Intern, wrote this story.

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