Vilonia third graders on Tuesday saw a donation to their school from an unexpected place — Kitale, Kenya.
The students recently participated in a fundraiser, the I Care Chicken Dance, raising $558 for Chicks for Children. The organization helps support the efforts of an orphanage in Kitale that raises chickens and sells the eggs to fund its operations.
Just days before the April 27 tornado, Vilonia students participated in the “I Care Chicken Dance.” Having secured sponsors for the “marathon,” students spent a considerable amount of their school day doing the Chicken Dance to raise money for Chicks for Children.
The orphanage is in the Kipsongo slum, an area of Kitale that is extremely poverty stricken and where there are many orphans. People who live in the slum have no prospect of finding jobs and bettering their situation, and they have been forced to live in huts they build out of garbage from a neighboring dump. Efforts by missionaries in the area have provided food, shelter and education to many orphans.
Dr. Mark Cooper of Chicks for Children is the father of Jimmy Cooper, a missionary who heads up the orphanage in Kitale. Dr. Mark Cooper attended an assembly with Vilonia third graders on Tuesday to present them with gifts from the orphanage. After hearing about the tornado, the children in Africa wanted to do something for their counterparts in Vilonia.
Third-grade teacher Kathy Moore said her students began exchanging letters with the children in the Kitale orphanage last year. Just before the tornado, she said, one of her students wrote in a journal entry, “When I heard Kitale had houses made of garbage, that made me think we must be so lucky that we have strong brick houses. But they only have ones made of garbage, and that made me think I just have to help, because what if they have a tornado? Those houses won’t protect them. They need something to protect them. And now they have an orphanage that’s safe for them.”
Cooper said after the children in Kitale heard about the tornado, they raised 32,000 shillings, which is about $400. They used 75 percent of the money to provide food and supplies to children less fortunate than themselves and sent the remaining 4,000 shillings, about $45, to Vilonia. They also wrote letters of encouragement.
Cooper presented Dr. Frank Mitchell, superintendent of Vilonia Schools, and Kelly Walters, Vilonia Elementary School principal, with the shillings as well as 25 percent of what the school raised during the fundraiser and an additional 25 percent that the charitable foundation provided in matching funds as a special gift to the school.
Cooper said of the money raised by Vilonia students, as with all Chicks for Children fundraisers, 75 percent will go to Kitale, and 25 percent will stay in the community for local needs.
“There’s poverty within Arkansas and Faulkner County. There’s children who go home weekends without the prospect of having as much food as they need or deserve. So it also responds to local poverty,” he said.
Carly Eary, 9, was moved by a photo of an orphan, Helen.
She said, “I thought it would be really cool to help them. When I saw Helen, I felt really bad for her. She looked like she was really hungry and sad and she needed help.”
Levi Shumway, 10, said of the gifts from the orphanage, “I was pretty happy, because Vilonia needs help from that bad tornado. We helped Africa and Africa helps us.”
(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)