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The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

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Bay Area kids fund anti-war charity organization

The lights are out, and only a faint glow from beneath the windows remains. Scattered across the room are students sitting on desks, tables, chairs, and even on the floor as they watch the slithering shadows before them. A light blinks, and a large rectangular area is illuminated upon the wall. The students stare as images of starvation, disease, and war appear in the rectangle. Concern volunteers Ellen Peterson and Paul Sherlock tell the children that the images are the results of poverty. This group of children is just one of many that have decided to donate to charities that will help people in post-war areas.

This presentation, in a middle school classroom, is made to students at the Mid Peninsula Jewish Community Day School who are raising money to donate to charity. These students have raised $30,213.66, according to student David Brown, age 13. Brown says they plan to split this money between several charities of their choosing, and presentations like Concern’s help to determine which charity needs the money the most.

Volunteers for Concern encouraged the students to donate to help Iraq recover from the war. “Palo Alto has been very active [in helping civilians in Iraq],” said Peterson, a photographer and volunteer for Concern. “If you get people together, you can get a lot done.”

Organized by Sue Schwartzman, a teacher at the Mid Peninsula Jewish Community Day school, the students involved with this project will act as an allocations committee, deciding which charities to give to and how much to give each. Schwartzman said they will raise as much money as they can through bake sales and contributions, and their goal is to raise $20,000 total.

Schwartzman said she feels that it is important for students of any age to be involved in the international community. “It’s important to make [donating to charities] part of the everyday culture,” Schwartzman said. “The issues aren’t waiting, so why should we?”

In addition to the $30,213.66 already raised, the students have acquired two grants. The grants state that anything the children donate is matched, 50 cents to a dollar, and money donated by other people, such as Paly students, would be doubled twice. Schwartzman says that the students raised this money with little adult assistance, donating money they’ve raised from bakesales and other fundraisers.

Much of this money will go to help the refugees in Iraq and other places. Many students are excited about donating to help in Iraq. “I’m not really sure if war [in Iraq] was the only solution,” Brown said. “It’s great that we’re going to help.”

Although the Iraq war has ended, Concern volunteers say that the real war is beginning now. This is the war of poverty and the struggle to survive in a country destroyed by war. Concern recently went to assess the situation in Iraq, and discovered that, according to the reports on their website, there is currently very little water there, and much of the country is without electricity. Many mines are still buried underneath the ground and chaos erupts daily. Concern volunteers say that Americans can only do so much, but that the real way to battle this war is to donate to charity.

Casey Coleman, 13, is one of the students helping to raise money. “I didn’t know there were so many problems [in Iraq],” he said. “The way [Concern] drags people out of their death beds and gets them on their feet again… it was really powerful.”

Concern, a non-profit charity with the primary mission to assist people in the poorest countries, is currently helping the people in Iraq to restore their lives. Volunteers are helping to supply the civilians seeds, food, and livestock. “Education is the most important thing,” Sherlock said. “We need to make sure that when we leave, the people we help will still be okay.”

“We give [refugees] a better understanding of the world,” added Peterson after the presentation to the class. “We help them to rebuild schools damaged by the war. Sometimes we even help them to make their own desks, chairs, and tables.”

Peterson explained that Concern helps people in 28 other countries as well, including Somalia, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. “We help the poorest people in the poorest parts of the world,” Sherlock said.

“It’s important to go in and help,” Sherlock continued. “[The civilians] don’t want to be there, but what can they do? They’re stuck.”

Along with Concern, they are also considering funding other organizations to help the homeless and help both domestic and foreign problems. Brown says all the students are eager to help out.

“It only takes a group of motivated kids to make a difference,” Schwartzman said. “Each of us has the power to change the world.”

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