Fifth-Graders Fight Ebola

01/22/15

With energetic clamor, the fifth-grade class of Riverdale Elementary School in Orlando, Florida, settled in for their weekly Wednesday meeting. Their teacher, Jesi Luxon, lets them use this time to talk about whatever is on their minds.

 
“There’s this Ebola thing going on in Africa and I think we should help,” said student Jada. The class enthusiastically agreed with her. They had all seen the news. This horrible disease was killing lots of people in Africa and it had spread to the United States. They wanted to help fight back
 
“I thought, what if my parents had Ebola? I couldn’t even hug them. That’s why I raised money for Ebola,” says student, Christopher.
 
Jesi couldn’t help but think of the children she’d met in Sierra Leone. She’d worked in the country several times with Venture Teams through Children of the Nations (COTN) and was sponsoring a child there. The fight against Ebola was personal for her too.
 
“Okay, if you guys are serious, I’ll connect you with an organization working in Sierra Leone,” Jesi told her students, pleased with their desire to help others. The class set a goal to raise $200 and Jesi promised to match the money they raised. The students eagerly got to work. 
 
Life in Sierra Leone was difficult before the Ebola outbreak. With the help of partners like you, COTN is providing protection and care for children and families.
 
“As a teacher I love when my students have a passion to fight against an injustice and I want to encourage and empower them to make a difference,” Jesi says. She did everything she could to set her students up for success. It was important that they were fully educated about the disease they were fighting and the children they were helping. 
 
Jesi helped the class gather facts about Ebola. She described Sierra Leone’s turbulent history and the struggle of daily life. She showed them pictures of the children she had met on her trips. She taught them how to choose a reputable organization and explained the difference between pledges and donations.
 
“The students were soaking up all the information they could get their hands on,” Jesi says. “Some of them were even researching at home.” 
 
                       The money Jesi’s class is raising is helping to send much needed supplies to Sierra Leone.
 
The more the students learned, the more determined they became. Jesi helped them write support letters to pass out to family, friends, and neighbors. They created flyers and handed them around school. One student made a T-shirt. Another pledged his birthday money.
 
“It’s exciting to see the light bulbs come on,” Jesi says. “When they learn that there are children who live in extreme poverty, they say, people live like that? Civil war happens? This drives them even more to make a difference.”
 
                               Jesi’s class has reached their goal of $200 and has set a new goal to raise $1,000.
 
It’s made a difference in Jesi’s classroom too. This experience has changed how the students view each other and how they interact. As they focus on a common goal, students are discovering leadership skills, creative talents, and developing friendships. “They’re building each other up,” Jesi says. “They’re building community, and that’s huge.” 
 
In just three short months, Jesi’s class reached their $200 goal. Excited by what they accomplished and eager to do more, the class set a new goal to raise $1,000. In the meantime, they’re writing letters to send to the children in Sierra Leone. They want to encourage the children who have to face the threat of Ebola every day. “We have to join hands to fight Ebola,” says student, Li-Ani.
 
Ebola is still spreading in Sierra Leone. Fight Ebola now.