Brighton School students help their Maasai counterparts

  • Jennifer Aaby<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:55am

LYNNWOOD –– Even though they haven’t met the beneficiaries of a fund-raising drive, Brighton School students didn’t hold back with their donations.

Students and families at this pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade private school recently donated almost $3,520 to an underprivileged school in Kenya during a two-week coin drive.

“The kids really got into it,” said Pamela Madigan, Brighton parent and coordinator of the school’s Kids Care Club, a service group that organizes monthly fund-raising drives.

Brighton partnered with Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition, a grass-roots organization that supports environmental, social and economic issues facing the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania, to donate the funds to one of the most needy schools in the region.

And although Brighton students have not met the children at Erusiai Primary School in Kenya, they do have a connection, Meitamei Olol Dapash, executive director of Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition, told the students during his visit to Brighton April 22.

“Those kids are just like you,” Dapash said. “They want to learn.”

Unfortunately, Dapash said, many of the students can’t continue their education because of a lack of resources and supplies or a need for them to help their families.

Dapash has visited Brighton previously. Last year, the school raised about $1,000 for Maasai students, and Dapash visited then to receive the donations.

Former Brighton parents Kurt and Anne Kutay are the link connecting the coalition with Brighton. The Kutays run Wildland Adventures, an ecotourism business, and met Dapash through their interest in assisting the Maasai community. Kurt Kutay is now the vice-president of Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition.

The Kutays said they knew Maasai schools had a great need, and they thought Brighton families would be able to help.

Dapash said the donations will indeed help the school. Funds are always needed for more supplies and books, as is evident by the staggering literacy rate. Among the Maasai, roughly 2 percent are literate, Dapash said, whereas Kenya’s overall literacy rate is closer to 85 percent.

But Erusiai Primary School, at this time, has another problem that needs addressing.

“The most pressing need for this particular school is that it doesn’t have a concrete floor,” Dapash said.

The dusty dirt floor makes a lot of students sick and does not provide a good learning environment, he said.

Brighton principal David Locke told the students he was proud of their hard work.

“One of the things you need to realize is you make a difference,” Locke said to the students.

Madigan said the school has been giving a lot recently to support people around the world. The Kids Care Club wrapped up a tsunami bake sale that raised around $4,000 in 10 weeks, and she said she thinks that momentum helped encourage students to give to the Maasai.

“It is a very generous community,” Madigan said. Many of the parents matched the donations raised by their children during this fund-raiser. One family donated $300 total, with the student chipping in $150 and the parents matching that, she said.

Eighth-grade students Brandon Sweeney and Patrick McMahon, both 14, toured Africa several years ago and saw the need for support, they said.

Sweeney said they saw a school that was only one large room with dirt floors, and that affected his desire to donate.

“Once we (toured) it, we donated a lot more money,” McMahon said. They’ve talked with fellow students about their experience and encouraged them to donate, they said.

Dapash said he was impressed by the kindness of the students and families, and he stressed that it doesn’t always take much to make a difference.

“Change doesn’t have to be big,” Dapash said.

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