Falmouth 1st-graders make a blanket statement about helping others

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FALMOUTH — First-graders at Falmouth Elementary School are pitching in to help deliver 10,000 baby blankets to people around the globe.

Project 10,000, spearheaded by Partners for World Health founder Elizabeth McLellan, is an effort to raise money to send birth kits to expectant mothers. McLellan met with groups of students in four different sessions on Feb. 3 to tell them what they can do to help.

To help raise funds for medical supplies, the students have been doing chores around their homes for extra money. The money will also be used to buy receiving blankets and hats for newborns; McLellan also asked the students to see if they had any receiving blankets at their homes that were no longer being used.

PWH, a South Portland-based nonprofit formed in 2009, initially collected discarded, but unused medical supplies for distribution around the world. Initially, McLellan kept the supplies in her own home and made arraignments for the supplies to be distributed.

Eventually, her volunteer-run program grew and it now operates medical mission programs in Bangladesh, Burma, Rwanda and Senegal. She said the blankets and medical kits are important because without any prenatal care, the mothers and babies could die in childbirth.

“We give (the mothers) the delivery pack and they take it to the midwife or doctor,” McLellan said.

The kits will be going to five countries in Africa, with each country receiving 2,000 kits. Senegal and Congo have already been selected as recipient countries, and McLellan said the other three have not been decided; she said they need to find local organizations to take ownership of the project, since PWH won’t be there.

“All of you are going to make a difference to people in Africa, even if you never meet them” McLellan told the Falmouth students. “You’re making a big difference in people’s lives.”

The blankets and other supplies will be collected not only in Maine, but from hospitals around New England, McLellan said. The supplies will be packed in a shipping container in Scarborough, and then shipped to Africa.

First-grade teacher Kathryn Bacon said this was a great way to have students involved, and it fits in with unit called “Children Around the World,” which she said teaches students about the similarities and differences between children around the world and emphasizes “what we all have in common.”

“It’s really important for them to make the connection that kids all over the world have the same needs and to recognize there’s something they can do for kids all over the world who are less fortunate,” Bacon said.

Bacon said the first-graders so far raised at least $200 and brought in 11 blankets.

The drive isn’t just limited to students, though. Others can donate new or gently used receiving blankets to PWH at 2112 Broadway, South Portland, and there will be a collection box at the Falmouth Elementary School entrance at 58 Woodville Road.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Elizabeth McLellan, the founder of South Portland-based Partners for World Health, meets with a group of first graders at Falmouth Elementary School on Feb. 4. The students are helping McLellan raise money for baby blankets and medical kits to send to Africa.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.