Giving 'Kash for Kibera'

Eighth-graders at Wapakoneta High School are working together to make a change in how students 8,000 miles away are learning.

“We’re trying to raise money to make a school,” Kacey Gerlach said.

She and a friend, Lacey Hayes, said they were touched by seeing all the pictures of young children in Africa who need their help.

The girls, who are helping to advertise for a drive to raise money to build a school in Africa, said they want to bring in as much money as possible.

Each eighth-grade classroom at the high school has a milk jug designated for “Kash for Kibera.” Jugs also are in the cafeteria. Students are being asked to bring in their pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters throughout January to raise money to help Acacia of Hope’s build a school in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya.

“For every piece they put in their homeroom container, we ask they remember that there are children in Africa that need their help,” said Melissa Brown, a graduate of Wapakoneta High School, who started the non-profit Acacia of Hope last year.

Brown, who spent a year teaching in Africa and serves as director of Acacia of Hope, talked to the students, many of whom she student taught as fifth-graders in math and reading, this week about what they were doing and how it was expected to help.

“They were silent and in awe of the statistics of how many kids their age died and how so many of them don’t have proper housing or have food to eat,” Brown said.

Brown, whose passion for the people and children of Africa began with a church mission trip, said she feels blessed with the burden of feeding, loving and teaching these children. Through Acacia of Hope, Brown said she is hoping to build a school which would providing a place for children to attend classes during the week, a place to offer adult lifeskill and literacy classes in the evening, and a place to hold church services and Bible studies on the weekend.

“Every six seconds a child dies in Africa. Every six seconds,” Brown stressed. “By the time people are done reading this article, 120 children have passed away.

“Death is everywhere, especially in Kibera, the largest slum in all of Africa,” she said.

Brown said her hope is that during the month of January, Acacia of Hope can help others remember all the children in Africa who need help.

While the homeroom that raises the most change or money to give toward building an elementary in Kibera is to receive a pizza party, Brown said she is hoping it is much more than that to the students who get involved.

“Every single penny raised will go toward the children of Kibera by opening up a school for them,” Brown said. “It’s been proven that if a child receives an education their survival rate goes up by 40 percent. For many of us, we don’t even think about trying to live. For those in Kibera, it’s on their minds every moment of the day.”

Kacey and Lacey started helping the cause as fifth-graders collecting school supplies to send to Africa and baking cookies and cupcakes for numerous bake sales.

“We have been involved in different ways however we can be since we first heard about it,” Kacey said. “We have this whole education here and they don’t really have anything. They have so many kids in a class it is tough to have that one-on-one time and they are just learning the basics. We have so many more capabilities than that. It’s terrible.”

Some adults in the community also have been inspired and are keeping a jar at home for the month of January. Brown encourages others to do the same.

“With just your pennies you can help us save children in Africa,” Brown said. “Will you be part of a change with us?”

She requested anyone wishing to make a donation or who collects change in a jar throughout the month to contact Acacia of Hope at the end of January and they can pick it up.