A chance visit to a village school during an African safari in March of 2015 started a chain of events that have now bonded students at two Maine Catholic schools and the Ngamo Primary School in Zimbabwe. In the process, children at all three schools have learned about generosity, the limitless nature of friendship, and what it truly means to help those in need, especially people they will never meet in person.
Christine L’Abbé, principal of Holy Cross School in South Portland, knew she would be visiting a school during her safari, but was not prepared for what she saw when she arrived.
“While we were there, we learned that students are sent home if they can’t pay their school fees. I couldn’t believe it. The school fees are $10 a trimester, and $30 for the year. Yet, many can’t afford to pay it,” L’Abbé said.
After discovering how a little effort could make a big difference, the Holy Cross community decided to “adopt the school” and began brainstorming ways that they could help. Bake sales, a Tootsie Pop sale, and other fundraisers were organized and over $400 initially rolled in, but the kindness, like the proceeds, had only just begun.
During Catholic Schools Week in January, Holy Cross students participated in a “penny wars” competition, with the proceeds totaling over $1,440.
“It was crazy when somebody dropped $20 in,” said eighth-grader Dominic Borrelli.
“After listening to Chris talk about her experiences visiting Ngamo and how children were turned away … I called Chris the next day and asked if All Saints could help,” said Joseph Gallant, principal of All Saints Catholic School in Bangor.
And the help added up. Between Holy Cross and All Saints, nearly $4,000 was raised. In August, L’Abbé returned to Zimbabwe to visit Ngamo, but unlike her previous visit, this voyage ended with celebration, not sadness.
“The school had prepared an assembly and celebration for us,” she said. “The way the school shows its appreciation is through singing and dancing. The parents got involved, even the principal danced!”
In addition to helping with tuition fees, the donations will also help the school improve its infrastructure with two flush toilets and a shower, along with a piping at the secondary school, where teachers and students had to walk 3 kilometers daily to get water. The donations will help pay to pipe water from the primary school to the secondary school.
Penny wars will be held again at Holy Cross, the year, and school families continue to donate items like clothes and sporting equipment to the village. Students at the three schools also trade letters, pictures and videos.
“My goal is to return to Ngamo next July and match the funds generated this past year or more,” said L’Abbé. “It is exciting to see the impact that a small amount of money can do for a school and community across the world. It’s great to see kids helping kids.”
Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation presented its annual teacher awards during the school district’s welcome back breakfast this month. The Brownell Award, named in honor of retired Cape Elizabeth High School math teacher Elaine Brownell, recognizes faculty or staff who did an outstanding job implementing a CEEF grant during the prior year. This year’s Brownell Award was presented to Freshman Academy. Teachers Tom Kohan and Ben Raymond, Principal Jeff Shedd, Vice Principal Nate Carpenter and students Gavin Spidle, Conner Thoreck and Brian Ellsmore were honored for their combined efforts.
David Brown was awarded this year’s Thompson Award, which was established in memory of Timothy Thompson and recognizes faculty or staff who go above and beyond in reaching out and mentoring students. Brown is a 32-year Cape Elizabeth School district bus driver. He earned the award for his unwavering commitment to making a positive impact on kids’ lives every day.
Marching to the film music of Alan Silvestri’s “The Polar Express,” “Back to the Future,” “The Avengers,” “Soap Dish,” “Captain America,” and “Forrest Gump,” the 2016 South Portland High School Marching Band will host the first marching band show of the season Saturday, Sept. 17, on Martin Field, beginning at 6 p.m. Having just finished their annual pre-season training, 80 students attended a seven-day camp in preparation for the Maine Band Directors Association’s Marching Band season. Under the direction of Craig Skeffington and staff, and led by senior Drum Major Owen Doane, and sophomore Color Guard Captain, Rachel Currie, the SPHS award-winning Gold Medal marching band and MBDA schedule can be found at mebda.org under the Activities tab. The season will culminate with the finals on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Thornton Academy in Saco.
Holy Cross School Principal Chris L’Abbe with Vusumuzi Ncube, who guided L’Abbe to Ngamo Village in Zimbabwe. L’Abbe took action after learning students have to pay to attend school.