Hampton middle schoolers learn they can create change

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Hampton Middle School students spend an entire day exploring firsthand the struggles of the less fortunate around the world in the school's annual “Be the Change” day.

Each year, about 250 seventh-graders participate in the daylong event during which they completed activities and exercises focused on various local and world issues.

“They are challenged to how (they can) be the change,” said Greg Shumaker, a seventh-grade teacher who helped organize this year's event.

“I'm hoping the students get an awareness of the have and have-nots and how fortunate they are for what they have and how they can help others out. We want to start planting the seeds to think about how they can impact the world in a positive manner.”

In each activity, students were given a different challenge to explore.

During one period, students were given the opportunity to make change by researching entrepreneurs through Kiva Microfunds, a nonprofit organization that allows people to lend money through online donations to low-income and underserved entrepreneurs, and at the end of the period, each of the seven classes chose one entrepreneur to give $75.

One seventh-grade class voted to donate its $75 to Zeeshan, a man in Pakistan with five children who wanted to purchase winter goods to sell in his store.

“We saw him and saw he had no money raised, so we decided to help him,” said Max Obenrader, a seventh-grader. “I thought it was cool he was actually going to get $75.”

Students learned about the lack of clean water in many countries and created water filters using sand, gravel and charcoal.

Students explored the sacrifices families need to make when budgeting for their households in an exercise that presented a family scenario that ranged from two working parents with children to a senior citizen on a fixed income.

Another activity divided students into groups and assigned a country and corresponding budget to build a house with items that ranged from building blocks to straws.

Elizabeth Dolan, a seventh-grader who designed the “Be the Change” day T-shirts, was in a group assigned to Africa and given $30.

Students assigned to North America received $400.

“It was a pipe-cleaner house with note cards taped to it that fell apart in two minutes,” Dolan said of her group's structure. “North America should lend money and be the change for other countries who don't have anything.”

One of the most labor-intensive activities required of the students was to carry a five-gallon bucket of water about a quarter of a mile around the inside of the gymnasium and school building.

“At first it was kind of easy, but once you got to the auditorium and had to walk uphill, it got kind of heavy,” said Anahita Kodali, seventh-grader.

“You got a taste of how women and children have to walk miles and miles to get water. I couldn't believe women and children would walk 20 miles a day to get water because I'm walking a quarter mile, and I'm done.”

Teachers also asked that the students not eat after dinner the night before so they could experience hunger while completing the “Be the Change” assignments. The students broke their fast at 2 p.m. with a spaghetti lunch.

“It's been eye opening because we in Hampton don't understand what it's like to be hungry and not have a home or walk to get water,” Kodali said.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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