Students raise funds for Cambodian school
Skyline elementary fifth-grader Piper Conley was on a mission last Friday.
The more laps she could complete around the school’s baseball field in an hour, the more playground equipment she could help purchase for Sunkoy, her Cambodian pen pal.
“I promised her that I will try to do the best I can to raise,” she said as she traversed yet another stretch of the grassy outfield.
Conley was one of 50 fifth- and sixth-grade students from Jackie Durward’s and Shannon Applegate’s classes participating in the fundraiser that aimed to help the very students they have been exchanging letters with from across the world. Durward said the students got motivated to help raise money for playground equipment when they learned about the living conditions of their pen pals.
“As we got to know them we realized that we everyday get to come out here and have a great time, and they use a rag stuffed with whatever they can find as a ball,” she said. “And as kids wanting to have other children have the same kind of fun, have that same kind of childhood, at least at recess, we wanted to do something about that.”
The students started a pen pal program through the Cambodian Village Fund after Ginger Allen, whose granddaughter is in Durward’s class, returned in January from a trip to Cambodia.
“I got the idea of connecting the children here with the children there,” Allen said of the pen pal program that began in March. “These teachers have been teaching the children that it’s important to have purpose.”
Allen has had the letters translated from English to Cambodian and back the other way so the students could communicate. Now in their second set of letters, Conley, 10, said she had received her latest news from Sunkoy that Monday.
“She told me how excited she is to get her playground stuff,” she said.
The Skyline students have raised more than $2,500 in pledges, well over their original goal of $900.
Durward said the classes would meet after the fundraiser to decide exactly what they want to buy for their pen pals in Cambodia and that even a basketball hoop may be a possibility. Whatever is decided, Durward said it was the one-to-one communication that got the students so motivated.
“It really touched all of them,” she said. “It was the pen pal-ship that made all the difference here because it was a personal connection.”
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