Tsunami Service Project

Schools’ goal is to raise money to help victims of Indian Ocean tsunami

Creating new ties that bind

Paula F. Kelly, The News Journal

March 2005

The College School student government had been looking for a worthwhile service project. When the tsunami struck late last year; the students had found their cause. But they waited a few months, to start at a time when thoughts of the catastrophe might be less intense.
About a half-mile away, the students at the Newark Center for Creative Learning also wanted to help the tsunami victims in a meaningful way.
On March 18, the two schools joined forces.
“We’re making bracelets and selling them to collect money and send it overseas,” said Kaitlin Bonner; 11, of NCCL.Getting The College School and NCCL together was nothing less than serendipitous, said Sean Kerrane, a teacher at NCCL – an alternative parent-cooperative school.
His wife, Yoly Kerrane, is a teacher’s assistant at The College School, a laboratory school for children with learning differences. One night at dinner; they were discussing the activities of each school and their groups’ desire to aid in the recovery process. Merging the two schools’ efforts for a mutual purpose was an opportunity not to be missed.
The students first met together about two weeks ago to decide their course of action. They settled on the bead bracelets.“Its like ‘Live Strong’ (bracelets),” said Paul Linser; 12, of The College School. “People will wear them.”
The NCCL students wanted beads portraying cranes, which symbolize peace. None could be found. When Sean Kerrane typed in “Indonesian beads” on an Internet search engine, he hit the mother lode. Hand-made sterling-silver beads were available from Bali, one of the areas hit hardest by the tsunami.
Sean sought out a local bead store where he could purchase the beads for 70 cents a gram. When the store owner heard about the project, she steered Sean to an international bead show, where he bought them for 50 cents a gram. What made the purchase more significant was that 40 percent of the cost would go to a work cooperative that made the goods.
“Since the beads are from Indonesia,” said Greg Desgrosseilliers, 13, The College School student government president, “it would also help their economy”.
Each student was allowed three silver beads per bracelet. The students let their imaginations take over; with iridescent, neon and bold-colored jewelry.
Paul Linser surrounded a silver bead with ones in alternating orange and black, his favorite colors. Chris Zalewski, 8, of NCCL, favored beads with letters on them. He laughed when he realized that he has spelled the work “out” backward.
Prior to their first afternoon of work, The College School held a three-day bake sale to earn money to pay for supplies.“They need a lot of money and stuff,” Desgrosseilliers said. “A bake sale wouldn’t make as much (money) as jewelry, so we could take the money from the bake sale to purchase beads and sell them and make more money.”
Alison Hall at the University of Delaware, where The College School is situated, proved to be a profitable outside marketplace, especially with the university students know to eat on the run.
The students had set a goal of making $300. They netted $400. Some college students donated $5 when the children told them about the project, said Lauren Howard, 13, of The College School. Others gave them the money and told them to treat themselves to their goodies, said classmate Emma Rice, 12.
The two groups will meet a couple more times before they sell their merchandise for about $5 per bracelet outside Alison Hall, Yoly Kerrane said.
The College School students have planned other fund-raisers. The children will charge money to play dodge ball, a school favorite that has been prohibited, Howard said. They also will charge $1 each for a dress-down day, when they can wear whatever they want instead of their uniforms, Linser said.
The project has reaped other benefits, too. It has given each group an opportunity to interact with the other, NCCL teacher Sean Kerrane said. Some of the students have exchanged e-mails and have been talking about the project outside of school. But the importance of the project has not been forgotten.
“We thought we would give something back to the community and the world,” Degrosseilliers said. ‘We saw it as a perfect opportunity.”