Students from the Coast have collected more than 300 kg of pennies totalling over $1,400 to provide permanent clean water sources for the people of Africa.
Seventeen students from Chatelech Secondary School and 16 students from Roberts Creek Elementary School attended We Day on Oct. 18, which inspired them to launch the local penny drives.
We Day brings together thousands of students in a massive stadium yearly to see performers like One Republic and hear speakers like Magic Johnson and Al Gore, who seek to motivate youth to make a difference in the world.
One statistic given at the event showed that $25 is all that’s needed to provide clean water for one person in Africa for life.
Students were challenged to collect enough pennies (2,500) to provide the luxury for at least one person.
Chatelech’s Robyn Edgar took the challenge much farther.
“We raised $757.54 in pennies and another $100 in other coins,” she said, noting the credit goes to the whole school. “After the conference I knew that I only had one jar of pennies, maybe five dollars [worth], but if we could get all the students excited about the cause, then maybe they would bring their pennies too.”
Robyn and fellow students who attended We Day decided to host a We Create Change week at their school from Nov. 13 to 16.
That week the Student Voice group ran games daily in the foyer to increase awareness and they encouraged everyone to take part by bringing in one penny or handfuls.
“The goal was to fill the big five gallon water cooler by the end of the week,” she said. “We ended up having filled the big water cooler bottle, plus other jars and bags and boxes. Kids just kept bringing them in- — even for a few days after the cut-off day.”
Robyn took the $857.54 raised at Chat to the Sechelt Royal Bank to deposit. The Royal Bank is the national partner for the We Create Change event spearheaded by Free the Children, which also hosts We Day.
The bank surprised her by matching Chat’s donated amount.
“That was just amazing. We weren’t expecting that,” Robyn said.
In Roberts Creek, the 16 students who went to We Day were also inspired to collect thousands of pennies.
The Grade 7 students who went told the other students about the penny challenge, and soon everyone got involved.
The grades 2 and 3 classes were especially keen, bringing in hundred of pennies, said teacher Michele Lilyanna.
“We used the money to graph, practise our math skills, learn about the Canadian mint and search for all the years we could find,” Lilyanna said.
After using the pennies for math practice, students made cutouts of people to represent how many would benefit from their penny drive.
“We currently have 24 bodies proudly displayed in the hallway,” Lilyanna said. “We have over $600 in pennies.”
Grade 7 student Shelley Paulus said the students “were inspired to make a positive change in the world” and noted the penny drive was just the start.
Student Jessica Bailey said the We Day event and the information she gained from it made her think seriously about the things she takes for granted.
“Its so sad to think that kids my age in Africa have to walk miles and miles with a pail full of water to their home and back all day and don’t get a chance to go to school when I’m in school learning lots,” she said. “Thank you to all the students at Roberts Creek Elementary School who helped out with the penny drive.”
To find out more about the penny drive initiative, go to www.freethechildren.com.