Lakewood elementary Grade 5 students Ally Arnold (left)

Local students help African children go to school

Club hopes to expand to other schools in the Sooke district

The smell of popcorn drifts down the hallway of Lakewood elementary even before you get to Robyn Penfold’s classroom.

But it’s not just the kernels that are bouncing. Her students are also vibrating as they talk about what they are going to do with the money raised from their popcorn sales.

That money is being donated to Education is Power, a charitable organization founded by Penfold’s fiancé, and it is being used to send students in Kenya and Tanzania to secondary school.

“They’re just at that age when they believe they can make a difference so fully, there’s no doubt in their minds,” Penfold said of her Grade 5 students. But it’s not just her classroom that’s helping raise money. She runs a club at the school that gives interested Grade 5 students a chance to get involved and learn more about the struggles other students around the world can face.

“It started the conversation of what education looks like in other countries,” she said. “It’s been amazing how keen they are.”

Penfold hopes this enthusiasm will spread to not just other classrooms in the school, but others in the district. “I’d love to help other teachers get involved,” she added.

Since Grade 5 students are involved in this club, Penfold hopes they will move on to Spencer middle school and join a similar Me to We club or continue fundraising on their own.

Getting students and teachers involved is very important, said 10-year-old Ally Arnold. She is not one of Penfold’s students but joined the club as a way to help other students. She noted her class also got to learn about these African countries.

Haley McArthur, 10, added, “We’re sending people to school whose families can’t afford for them to go.”

Eleven-year-old Ruby Wallace even took it upon herself to do some fundraising outside of school to help the club. At her family’s property up at Lake Cowichan, Wallace and a friend set up a lemonade stand and sold baked goods. The pair managed to raise $50.

“Education is a great part of life; everyone should have it,” she said.

The club, which meets at lunch time, has had two popcorn sales this month. The first raised roughly $300. But as Dominic Bruschetta, 10, pointed out, “every dollar you raise is tripled by a private donor.” So that $300 turned into $1,200 and the students were able to raise enough funds to send three students to school in Kenya, just by selling popcorn for $1 a bag, Bruschetta added.

At the second popcorn sale earlier this week, the students raised roughly $200, which they noted would translate to another two students being able to go to school.

The pictures of the African students these local children have helped are proudly displayed outside of Penfold’s classroom. Handwritten letters of appreciation prove these local students made a difference to someone.

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