By Carlotta Mohamed
At least 120 students at PS/MS 200 participated in a Walkathon Wednesday morning in their schoolyard to raise funds to provide food supplies for kids in Flint, Mich., and clean water for people in South Sudan.
Every year, students at PS/MS 200, The Magnet School of Global Studies and Leadership — located at 70-10 164th St. in Flushing — participate in charity events to raise money for a great cause.
This year, Dina Shmuel, an English teacher and charity coordinator, walked with sixth- and seventh-graders who donated money to support the BackPack Program of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, and Water for South Sudan to provide clean, safe water to hundreds and thousands of people.
“We’re accepting donations all day, and we’re also selling water that will go for the drilling wells in South Sudan,” said Shmuel. “Since we’re the Global Studies and Leadership School, I decided to go and study countries outside of here to tie everything in with our novels so they can make a connection.”
Shmuel is hoping to raise as much money as they can to contribute to both organizations. Last year, the students raised $360 for Water for South Sudan, said Shmuel.
The idea of a walkathon came to mind after her sixth grade class read the novel, “Bud, Not Buddy,” by Christopher Paul Curtis, that describes the travails and adventures of a 10-year-old African-American orphan in Depression-era Michigan.
Shmuel’s seventh grade class read “A Long Walk to Remember,” by Linda Sue Park, about two Sudanese children, where one fetches water from a pond that is a two hour walk from her home.
According to Shmuel, the students’ donations to The BackPack Program of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, will help provide a backpack full of nutritious and easy-to-prepare food for children to take home on the weekends when school meals are not available.
Shmuel’s students said the novels taught them the importance of helping others who are less fortunate, being grateful for what they have, and to continue to persevere in pursuing their goals.
“We just take things for granted…like we don’t understand there are so many kids out there that are in so much need of help,” said sixth grader, Tausiyah Miah.
Shmuel said she has also been in contact with an organizer at Water for South Sudan, a non-profit corporation that drills wells to create access to and monitor safe drinking water for communities located in remote rural areas of South Sudan.
“Here in school we have clean water that we can drink anytime, and they have to walk eight miles a day just to get water that isn’t clean,” said seventh grader, Nabintou Coulibaly. “Us raising money for them could help them get clean water that would actually save someone’s life because a lot of people are dying, and getting really sick because they’re drinking this water.”
Hugo Arica said it’s important for them to help those in South Sudan, where families lack access to basic necessities.
“People here are complaining about WIFI and not having the latest shoes and latest phones, yet in South Sudan, they don’t even have a teaspoon of water,” said Arica. “A lot of children here are selfish and sometimes even jealous for what they don’t have, and people in South Sudan have very little and are very poor.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha