Students, parents and staff members at Harmony Middle School in Hamilton are working to improve the lives of kids on the other side of the world.
Under the direction of civics and economics teacher Thomas Casto, the school community has taken Taonga Preschool and Daycare in Zambia, Africa, under its wings. For the past several months, Harmony has collected donations and supplies for the preschool. Eighth-graders organized a competition between the grades to see who could raise the most money for Taonga.
In total, the students donated $3,000 to the African preschool. The money is paying for the construction of a storage facility for the school and, even more needed, a bathroom.
This week, the preschool held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the new additions.
Right now, a patch of dirt covered with hay is designated as the students’ and teachers’ makeshift bathroom. Because there is no running water and no system to dispose of waste, the kids are frequently sick and the closest medical clinic is 40 miles away.
Cynthia Morris, a parent of a Harmony student who traveled to the Zambian preschool for the groundbreaking ceremony, wrote in an email that, “better hygiene alone will make a real difference in their lives.”
She and her family loaded their suitcases with school supplies for Taonga. Students at Harmony, Woodgrove High School, Mountain View Elementary, and Waterford Elementary collected items for the African school, and Morris and her family loaded 250 pounds of books, paper, pencils, crayons, glue, rules and other supplies in their suitcases and delivered them to Taonga this week.
“Until we got there, the school had no supplies beyond tables and chairs, a chalkboard painted around all the walls, a couple of posters and an old French book they were using as scrap paper,” Morris wrote.
Taonga’s students are children of farming families. They spend their day at the school while their parents work on nearby farms. Most live and work on the Livingstone Fruit Farm in the Zambezi River Valley.
Harmony students’ started their fundraising efforts last school year as part of a One to the World project. One to the World is an initiative championed by Superintendent Eric Williams and meant to encourage Loudoun students’ classroom assignments to make real-world impacts.
Casto said the partnership with the preschool has been a meaningful learning experience for the students. “This was not the work of many teachers and parents, telling their students that they should donate money to help Taonga—this was the students seeing a need and knowing that they could help,” he said. “Their worlds and minds have been expanded, and, indeed, their lives have been changed.”
Learn more about, and support, the Harmony-Taonga partnership at taonga.org.