Sunday, October 28, 2007

Contra Costa Times (10-28-07)

Contra Costa Times
Students at Livermore school save their pennies to build a school in Pakistan
By Mark Tarte
Sunday, October 28, 2007

CHILDREN LEARN IN SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS. A fifth-grade class at Emma C. Smith School is learning about the world around them in a positive way and helping other children in Pakistan at the same time.

It started when a student's mother brought a book to her child's principal, Denise Nathanson, called "Three Cups of Tea." It is about a young man's near-fatal climbing accident on the mountain known as K2 and his subsequent recovery at the hands of poor Pakistani villagers.

Out of this near tragedy and recovery for the climber, Greg Mortenson, grew the program Pennies for Peace. A Berkeley nurse, Mortenson made a vow to the villagers who saved his life that he would come back and build a school for them.

The village was so poor that it couldn't even afford the dollar a day it takes to hire a teacher. The children would climb to the next village at times to go to school and still study together even if the teacher didn't arrive. Their writing was done with sticks in the dirt since they were so poor they couldn't afford pencils and paper in a country where a penny buys a pencil.

Mortenson did scrape together the money to build a school and fulfilled his promise. He then wrote "Three Cups of Tea" with David Oliver Relin about his experience. To date, he has helped to build 59 schools in Pakistan and is now expanding into Afghanistan .

His work is especially important for girls in a culture where they were not normally allowed to receive an education and the schools are slowly countering the Taliban-supported schools where children were taught only to hate.
The story has enthralled those who read it, and Nathanson asked if anyone at the Smith school wanted to get involved. Two teachers who job-share took it on enthusiastically. Erin Summers' and Megan Fletcher's fifth-grade class have jumped in with both feet and are trying to raise the $12,000 it takes to build a school in Pakistan .

The class has raised almost $2,200 in the past month or so toward their eventual goal, and they are working hard to raise the rest. This is a daunting task for any fundraiser, let alone a group of young students.

Each week these fifth- graders go into the other classrooms, update the younger students about the project and leave behind containers to collect pennies. At the end of the week, those cans are collected and added to the slowly growing total.

The students have also written letters to many politicians about what they are doing and will be making a presentation to the Livermore school board Nov. 7.

I learned about this wonderful project through Charlotte Grabill, the volunteer publicity chairwoman at the school. The more I looked into what Charlotte told me, the more I was pleasantly surprised by the dedication and drive these youngsters demonstrate. Everyone should be as passionate about something as these students are.

You can help if you'd like. Donations are being accepted through the school; you just need to earmark a check with "Pennies for Peace" when you send it.

You can mail a donation to the Emma C. Smith School , 391 Ontario Drive , Livermore , CA 94550 .

To find out more about the international project or the book itself, go to There, you will find different links to this project and other projects supported by this group throughout central Asia . My check is on its way ... how about yours?

Until next week, be alert, be safe and God bless America .

Reach Mark Tarte c/o the Times, P.O. Box 607 , Pleasanton , CA 94566 or by e-mail:
(c) 2007 Contra Costa Times