Last week, West University Elementary students participated in a service project that benefits school children in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Kids In Need of Desks (K.I.N.D.) is a joint collaboration between UNICEF and MSNBC that provides locally made desks and benches for students in Malawi. In many Malawi schools, children sit on dirt floors for up to seven hours per day. Unlike even the least funded schools here, they have no bathrooms, no playgrounds, no school supplies. Typically one teacher instructs more than 100 kids of different ages. Yet in spite of these disadvantages, many children walk several miles to get to school and are willing to sit in the dirt all day to get an education.

This project was designed to raise awareness of underprivileged children in Malawi and to engage our kids in the act of giving. For one school day, most of the West University students took their lessons while sitting on the floor from an hour up to the entire day. They watched a video of Malawi students and of the desks that are being made with local materials by local builders. Then they were challenged to “Do, Ask and Give Up” to raise money on their own to help pay for building supplies: by donating a portion of their allowance, holding a bake sale or lemonade stand, or doing chores for hire.

What they did was nothing short of inspiring:

A group of boys in their baseball uniforms sold treats for $1 in front of the West U Little League fields and raised $140. Some girls raised $102 dollars by selling rose pencils they made out of duct tape and homemade candied pecans. Two students sold lemonade and cookies in front of their home for more than four hours and raised $200. Another group set up a stand at Colonial Park and sold brownies, lemonade and Malawian cookies. One youngster helped her mother fold the laundry to earn money to donate.

“We didn’t want kids to simply as their parents for money,” says Laura Torgerson, one of the three project coordinators. “We wanted them to find creative ways to do it on their own.”

In the end, West University Elementary students raised a whopping total of $15,992.78. That will buy 246 desks for children in five Malawi schools.

“That’s more than double what I hoped for,” says Torgerson. “I’m so moved by what our children have done for others.”

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