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CCMES students raise funds at Fall Family Festival for Bolivian pen pals

by Merrie Leininger

Sixth grade students at C.C. Meneley are learning more than writing and math – they are learning the value of hard work and of charity.

Danna Barkley’s class started writing to students at Nueva Vida “New Life” Christian Missionary School in Bolivia this fall. The students are members of the Yura Cade tribe, which is native to the Amazon jungle and the students attend the school for three months at a time.

Barkley’s husband, Adam, grew up at the school because his parents were long-term missionaries.

Through connections the Barkleys still have at the school, the students in CCMES were matched up with students in Bolivia. The pen pals communicate in Spanish, although it is neither group’s native language.

Ali Hines, 11, said her pen pal is Pablo.

“He’s just fun. He talks in a different language and it’s nice to see how they learn. It helps me learn Spanish because he knows more words than I do and when I read his letters it helps me learn more vocabulary,” Ali said.

Sadi Weber, 11, said she writes to Virginia.

“It’s nice to know what the world is like in Bolivia and how they live. They don’t get school supplies like we do,” Sadi said.

Because the class was looking to host a booth at the Fall Family Festival, held Oct. 14, the students voted to donate the money raised to their pen pals for school supplies.

“They wanted to participate in the community somehow. The majority of the kids said let’s send the money to Bolivia. The principal said if we purchase supplies and send them, it is the best thing for them. We are also going to send them a treat, something they cannot get there,” Barkley said.

Barkley said before she would even consider it, the kids had to determine a good reason the class should participate in a project that would take up valuable classroom time.

The students determined they would have to use persuasive writing skills to ask the school’s principal and the school superintendent permission to host a booth. They also have to use math to count the money raised and to buy the items with enough money left over for postage.

“The kids did everything. I just kind of organized them. They worked so hard, they even wrote and designed their own newsletter to promote the booths and wrote a persuasive essay to the principal,” Barkley said.

She said the 23 students voted to have two booths, one where people could have their picture taken with the characters from “The Wizard of Oz,” and a coin toss booth in which people could win donated dishes.

The students themselves dressed up as the Wizard of Oz characters and charged $1 for each Polaroid picture. The students got all the film donated from local businesses. Students saved their own money to rent booth space. They sold homemade cookies.

At the end of the day, they raised $175 for school supplies. Now they will shop around for the best deals, Barkley said. After the festival, the class wrote thank-you letters to Smith’s, Rite Aid, Scolari’s, the Fish store, Coventry Cross Thrift Store and Stratton Center.

Barkley said the parent chaperons, the Webers and the Hellwinkels also donated bales of hay and bought the students lunch. She said the students all worked very hard the day of the festival.

“They worked so hard. It was their idea and it was their hard work,” she said.

“I thought we would only raise $100 or so. It was just a photo booth and in the coin toss, they were just throwing dimes and quarters. I couldn’t believe we made that much,” Ali Hines said.

Barkley said almost all the students volunteered at the booths all day long. Jordan Weihskopf, 11, played his drums to entertain the customers.

Joey Sellers, 11, played the role of photographer at the festival.

“It gives a good reputation for the school, and it gives hope to kids who want to do this also. We worked hard and it paid off,” Joey said.

Stephanie Baeta, 11, was a cashier.

“It was tough. We had to first ask the principal and the superintendent. It was a lot of work and planning getting the things donated,” Stephanie said.

Katie Hellwinkel, 11, said she was dressed as the scarecrow in the photo booth.

“The best part was seeing all the little kids smile. It was lots of fun,” Katie said.