For the first time ever, our Snohomish School District community adopted a district wide fundraiser – Pennies for Peace. If you have read Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time, you are familiar with this program. The book describes how Greg Mortenson, a former Himalayan climber, found a way to help children who were determined to learn but had no school, teacher, or basic supplies. Through his efforts to date, 78 schools have been built in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Our student councils, parent organizations, “Watch DOG” Dads, staff, and students worked together to raise $50,000 one penny at a time to build a school and endow it for 3-5 years.
Pennies for Peace teaches the rewards of working together to bring hope and opportunities to children in that remote region. Collecting pennies makes it possible for all students to participate and learn the capacity to make a difference. Here, pennies are nearly worthless, but there a penny buys a pencil and opens the door to literacy. One dollar pays a teacher’s salary for a day.
The idea began after Snohomish administrators read Three Cups of Tea as part of their ongoing study of servant leadership. “We had just passed our bond,” comments Deputy Superintendent Betty Robertson. “I was struck by how fortunate the children in our community are – in stark contrast to children who have no school at all.”
Parent leaders Kim Wilson, Patty Venema, and Pam Elliott teamed with district staff to organize the campaign. Wilson met Greg Mortenson, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, last spring. “I was impressed with the power of one man making a difference. As a mom I am concerned with how to teach kids the value of money and how lucky they are.”
Comments Venema, “This is an area of the world where education of girls is nonexistent and education for boys is largely about fighting. What will change the world is education.” As future mothers, girls have the most influence to change conditions in their villages, and these schools emphasize education for girls.
Elliott is excited about the learning opportunity for Snohomish students. “The kids are going to raise the money and build the school,” says Elliott. “The adults are just facilitating the process.”
A core team of district teachers prepared related lessons, and Snohomish Education Foundation purchased a class set of the book at appropriate reading levels for every school.
Robertson, who retired at the end of the 08-09 school year, was thrilled. “We are always looking for ways to connect and be one Snohomish. This is learning for our students that can’t be found in a textbook.”