The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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January 27, 2008

Not just classwork: Students help to feed orphans in Uganda

SHARON — Students in a Sharon high school English class were so moved by the stories of children in a Ugandan orphanage that they decided to do something to help.

“A lot of kids sit and say something needs to be done but don’t do it,” Ed Gill said.

That wasn’t the case for the 33 seniors in Maria Rodenbaugh’s reading and writing classes.

They started a campaign collecting change at lunch and ended up with $551, which Students for Charity voted to match. So the Kyasira Home of Hope orphanage in Uganda received $1,100 from Sharon high school — enough to feed 44 orphans lunch every day for a year.

Mrs. Rodenbaugh signed up with the Peace Corps’ Crossing Cultures program and hooked up with her Westminster College roommate Hope Latiak, who is a Peace Corps volunteer at the orphanage.

Through Ms. Latiak’s e-mails, classwork and their own research, the students learned about the conditions the children lived in. Many lost their parents to AIDS, food and clean water is scarce and the orphanage sits on Lake Victoria, which is home to deadly crocodiles.

“The pictures we saw were horrible,” said Mary C. Smith.

When hearing about such atrocities, Antonio Johnson said it’s always in the back of people’s minds that “nothing’s ever that bad.”

But when you see it first hand, Antonio said, you realize just how much worse it is in Africa than in America.

“We have ways you can get stuff. They have no hope,” he said.

Ms. Smith said people here complain about having little, but “over there they have nothing at all.”

“It made me realize how fortunate we are here,” said Ryan Mathieson. “We have it so good.”

The Sharon students learned about how the orphans eat porridge for breakfast every day ($25 buys a six months supply) and how they have to pay for their school uniforms, books, supplies and even the teacher’s salary ($125 per year per child). When women give birth in Uganda, they’ve got to pay for everything down to the gloves the doctors use, they learned.

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