This spring saw an amazing number of important outreach efforts at both Harker’s lower and upper schools. At the lower school, grade 1 students broke a new record raising funds for animals living at the Humane Society. Additionally, a number of grade 5 girls took it upon themselves to help sew items for local charities, and a grade 5 boy started a foundation providing sick children with comforting toys. Meanwhile, happenings at the upper school included a freshman serving as a featured speaker for an organization that seeks to eradicate child labor; a senior receiving an award for her advocacy work on behalf of the hearing impaired; and two juniors working to improve the lives of women in poverty. Read on for a more detailed overview of all of these outreach efforts, each one significant in its own right.
Grade 1 Students Raise Money, Create and Collect Items for Shelter Animals
Grade 1 students at the lower school recently completed their annual community service project for the Humane Society of Silicon Valley. The entire first grade student body worked to improve the lives of the shelter’s displaced rabbits, dogs and cats by collecting monetary donations as well as buying needed supplies and making toys for distribution to the animals.
“It was pretty sweet to get Ziplock bags filled with dollar bills and coins. Every bit made a difference … We also collected over 50 bags of food, toys, rabbit hay, treats, collars, leashes, blankets, sheets and towels. We also raised over $1,250. A new record!” reported Cindy Proctor, a grade 1 homeroom teacher who helped oversee the project.
To learn as much as possible about the Humane Society – an 80-year-old independent, nonprofit animal shelter – the children toured the nearby Silicon Valley facility. Following the fun and informative outing, the students decorated a bulletin board with photos of themselves and their animal friends. They also made pet blankets and toys for donation.
Parents played a role as well, as the children were encouraged to earn extra money for the Humane Society at home by doing small jobs around the house.
“The animals will be really happy because they will feel special when they receive all their gifts,” observed grade 1 student Angelina Burrows, who said she spent time cleaning her room to help raise money for the shelter effort.
Her classmate, Stefan Maxim, said he did “a bunch” of extra jobs to help raise money as well, including watering the garden, washing the car and “even washing the house!”
“I want to express our gratitude for the support of the entire Bucknall campus. This grade 1 donation drive was a huge success!” enthused Proctor.
Grade 5 Student Honored for Philanthropic Work at Children’s Hospital
Bryan Zhang, grade 5, recently received a certificate from the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in recognition of his philanthropic efforts there providing young patients with comforting toys.
“This hospital means a lot to me, and the patients there deserve the service and toys. I am delighted to be helping the Lucile Packard’s Children Hospital,” said Zhang.
Four years ago, when the Los Altos resident was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia, his nurses brought him a stuffed teddy bear, which he found very reassuring. Upon returning home, Zhang began thinking about all the other sick children at the hospital and wondering whether they also received such gifts to help ease their hospital stays.
He had a lot of souvenirs from countries he had visited while traveling with his parents and decided to donate them to children at the hospital – an idea he shared with the staff at the hospital. They were very receptive to the suggestion. Soon after, Zhang’s parents helped him carry his vision even further by forming the nonprofit World Toys for Children Foundation, whose mission is to “support Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital with donations that educate, inspire imagination and comfort sick children.”
Now, thanks to Zhang and his parents, many sick children at the hospital will benefit from the cheering effect that new toys can bring to young patients.
Zhang was recently featured in an article on the hospital’s giving website. To view that story go to: http://supportlpch.org/pages/ways-to-give/champions-featured-champions-bryan-zhang.
Grade 5 Students Spend Presidents’ Break Volunteering for Sew for Love Program
Five fifth grade girls shared the joy of volunteering during a fun community service project called Sew for Love, an event consisting of sewing needed items for local charities.
Nilisha Baid had heard about the opportunity via her Girl Scouts group. She had met the Sew for Love organizer at other Girl Scout events and been wanting to volunteer herself. So she decided to ask some of her classmates to join her at this year’s 12th annual Sew For Love, which was held on a weekend over the Presidents’ Week break.
There, she and some of her friends (fellow grade 5 students: Ankita Kundu, Advika Phadnis, Pramiti Sankar and Arushi Saxena) joined other volunteers who were working in shifts on projects together.
Whether busy at the sewing machine, scissors cutting, hand sewing or threading, Sew for Love volunteers were able to combine their efforts to produce some 871 items in just two days. Completed items included child and adult quilts, pet beds, tote and drawstring bags, fleece hats, bean bag chairs, and small “Pocket Love Bears.”
Reflecting back upon their volunteer work, Baid and her Harker pals agreed it was a very rewarding experience to learn to assemble and sew a variety of items for a worthy cause. And, as an added bonus since the event, all the girls have now signed up to be Girl Scouts together, where they are sure to continue to enjoy further shared communal outreach efforts.
More details about the Sew for Love project can be found at: http://simplylovetosew.webs.com/sewforlove.htm.
Grade 11 Students Work to Help Empower Impoverished Women and Children
When grade 11 student Ashwini Iyer was in seventh grade she went off to Tanzania, Africa, with her father and a school teacher to help orphans there learn math and English. It was that firsthand experience, she said, that planted the seeds for her current volunteer efforts striving to empower poverty stricken women and children from around the globe.
“Ever since then, I have been trying to find ways to give back and help those who are not as fortunate without having to travel too far,” said Iyer, who is the founder and president of Harker’s Rising International Club. The club is one of several local chapters of an international nonprofit by the same name whose mission to help end world poverty
On March 30, Iyer, with the help of schoolmate and club vice president Roshni Pankhaniya, grade 11, hosted a home-based fundraising event attended by about 60 Harker students and parents, as well as neighbors and family friends. All proceeds from the house party, which totaled $4,226 (with more donations expected to flow in from people who could not attend but wanted to donate) went directly to the Rising organization.
In addition to selling arts and crafts made by women locally and in developing nations, they hosted several guest speakers including Rising’s CEO Carmel Jud and Saratoga city council candidate Pragati Grover. Jud and Grover discussed the topic of women empowerment and the importance of teaching impoverished women around the world how to run their own sustainable micro-enterprises.
Iyer originally met Jud at the Khaled Hosseini Harker Speaker Series event held at the upper school last year, which she was covering for journalism. “As we talked, I explained my experiences, and how much I wanted to give back to my community, and she told me to contact her to see if I could get involved in her organization,” recalled Iyer.
Iyer then began her volunteer work with Rising International by working with Jud and two students from other high schools to organize a successful large scale fundraiser at the AMC 14 theaters in Saratoga, as well as their own private home parties.
“Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed with grades and college applications, but we have to remember that many of these women and children would give anything for these worries. Since we are so blessed, I believe that it is our duty to help them and share all that we have,” said Iyer.
“Growing up in Silicon Valley we are in a relatively sheltered environment and I find it really important for all of us to realize that the world isn’t as perfect as it seems. I saw Rising as a wonderful way to bring attention to the cause,” added Pankhaniya.
For more information about Rising International, go to risinginternational.org.
Senior Receives Community Service Spotlight Award
Zina Jawadi, grade 12, received Harker’s Community Service Spotlight Award at a recent Monday morning school meeting. At the gathering she was given a $200 check from the upper school community service program, which she in turn donated to the Hearing Loss Association of America’s (HLAA) Walk4Hearing event to help promote awareness about children with hearing loss.
The community service spotlight awards are given several times during the school year. They were created to celebrate and honor outstanding community service by upper school students.
In her acceptance speech at the meeting, Jawadi explained that HLAA is the largest national nonprofit support and advocacy organization serving people with hearing loss, with 200 chapters and tens of thousands of members.
A couple years ago Jawadi, who herself has hearing loss, became the youngest board member of any HLAA board nationwide. Shortly after, she was nominated and unanimously elected HLAA-CA secretary. And, she was recently voted HLAA-CA vice president. Among her work for the cause, Jawadi has organized and spearheaded youth events, conventions and fundraisers. She also has been asked to serve as a guest speaker on behalf of the organization.
Previously, between her freshman and sophomore years, she launched a used hearing aid collection in the Bay Area on behalf of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, an effort which she has continued by signing up 29 audiologists and hearing aid dispensers, and collecting more than 600 hearing aids for needy people with hearing loss.
During her speech, Jawadi noted that she used to be inspired to do community service because of her hearing loss. However, she said her source of inspiration has since changed as she is simply grateful to be able to serve people with disabilities, who she believes face more socioeconomic and educational barriers than all other minorities combined.
“Zina was selected to receive our community outreach award because of her passion for community service,” said Kerry Enzensperger, director of community service and activity director.
“She has turned in over 500 hours of community service but continues to volunteer without turning in hours because she so loves what she does! In fact, if she did turn in her hours she would be over 1,000 hours of community service,” said Enzensperger.
To read more about HLAA, go to http://www.hearingloss.org/.
Grade 9 Student Presents Alongside Celebrities at Free the Children’s WE Day
Harker freshman Arjun Subramaniam recently joined celebrities and prominent activists in addressing an audience of more than 16,000 children from various California schools gathered at the Oakland Arena for an event called WE Day.
The event, held on March 26, was sponsored by an organization called Free the Children, which works to eradicate child labor in developing nations. After being introduced by actress Selena Gomez, Subramaniam took to the stage to speak about his work with the nonprofit organization. He then presented a short segment, telecast live, on the story of a young child laborer called Iqbal Masih.
Masih’s story had originally inspired the founding of Free the Children by a man named Craig Kielburger back in 1995. Kielburger was only 12 years old when he gathered 11 school friends to begin fighting child labor, laying the seeds for the organization.
Today, Free the Children is an international charity and educational partner that believes “in a world where all children are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change.” The organization works domestically to educate, engage and empower youth to become active local and global citizens.
Subramaniam said he first got involved with Free the Children after reading an article about child labor and being upset to learn that kids his own age and younger were being forced to work up to 15 hours a day and denied an education.
“While perusing the Web for organizations that were targeting this issue, I came across Free the Children, and their mission shared many parallels with my interests and passion,” recalled Subramaniam, noting that, by chance, the organization’s only office in the United States was just a few minutes away from his house.
Last year Subramaniam brought a Free the Children representative to speak at the middle school. Shortly after, he and a couple of friends set up a fundraiser on campus to help raise money for the cause.
“I have also talked to leading figures in the child labor movement in India, including Kailash Satyarthi, whose organization has rescued hundreds of thousands of child laborers and successfully petitioned the Indian government to change its child labor laws,” he said.
Speaking at the recent We Day was a transformative experience for Subramaniam. “Everyone there has inspired me to keep being part of the fight to eradicate child labor,” he said.
For more information about WE Day and Free the Children, visit: www.freethechildren.com.