About 400 students and parents at Monterey Middle School attended an assembly last Friday entitled Make Poverty History. The professional looking, multi-media presentation was organized by the school’s Me to We group under the direction of Karen Grigor, a Grade 7 teacher at the school.
“Me to We is a great organization and we have just a remarkable group of kids here who are the most giving group of young people I’ve ever worked with,” said Grigor. “There’s about 50 kids in this school who have signed up to donate their birthday money (cash in lieu of presents from family and loved ones) to charity. It’s really amazing.”
She said that the record of fundraising at the school includes a “gazillion” projects, most initiated by the kids themselves. “After the earthquake in Haiti they did the coins for compassion project and raised $6,250 in a very short time. They’re part of the adopt-a-village and raised $3,500 to build a school and help with clean water and health care for a village in Ecuador.” The latter program was a part of a drive by Free the Children, an organization affiliated with Me to We.
Other projects at the school have raised money to battle cystic fibrosis, combat cancer and counter the effects of drought in Kenya that raised $1,200. And those projects just scratch the surface of the work that the students have done, said Grigor.
Emily Spargo, one of the student volunteers for the school’s Me to We group is a Grade 8 student who has been volunteering for two years. “I just love to help people and feel like I’m making a difference,” said Spargo. “Besides, it’s really fun.”
Blake Smith-Daniels, 12, is another of the school’s 24-member Me to We group. He is also part of the band, Endurance, and hopes that his band can develop a record label that attracts other young musicians, who will in turn help raise money for charitable causes. “I want to be a musician, but I also want to make a difference,” he said.
Tammy Smith-Daniels, Blake’s mom, was at the assembly and beamed with pride at the work the students have done. “If you’ve never seen poverty, you can talk about it, but it’s really just talk. You have to see it to really get it,” she said. The Smith-Daniels family has visited impoverished.nations and the experience changed them. “What impressed us all is that these incredibly poor people have pride in what they have. … They have dignity and deserve so much more.”
The assembly was intended to garner support for a program called We Scare Hunger in which young people go out on Halloween night, not to collect treats, but to gather non-perishable foodstuffs for local food banks. “Last year Blake collected a full shopping cart by himself,” said Tammy. “I can’t even guess at how much food has and will be collected by all these great kids.” She urged people to be prepared with food bank donations on Halloween night.
More information on the organizations related to the work of the Me to We group can be found at freethechildren.com.