Seaford students send smiles

Children raise money for East African school

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Seaford Manor Elementary School may not seem like the starting point for an international relief effort. But for the second year in a row, a determined cadre of children and adults have been raising money to help the children and teachers of Jambo Jipya School and Children’s Center in Mtwapa, Kenya.

Reason 2 Smile, a nonprofit organization founded in 2009 by Keela Grimmette, of upstate Lake Placid, introduced Seaford Manor to Jambo Jipya during the school’s 2018 International Week last January. International Week comprises games, lessons and activities intended to teach students about other countries and cultures.

A year after giving a presentation about the Kenyan school to the local third-graders, Reason 2 Smile’s executive director, 54-year-old Donna Rosenblum, returned to the Seaford Manor library on Jan. 11 — the final day of 2019 International Week — to speak with this year’s three third-grade classes.

Rosenblum has visited other local schools, including Garden City and Floral Park high schools, to raise money for Jambo Jipya and educate children about the school’s culture since September 2015, when she became the organization’s acting director.

The third-grade curriculum teaches students about continents, Seaford Manor’s librarian, Samantha Simon explained. “It flows really nicely with what they’re learning in the classroom, as well as in the library,” she said.

Last year the students created and sold rainbow-colored loom bracelets for $1 apiece in a project they called Looms for Love. Reason 2 Smile provided Simon with other handmade items, including Kenyan artwork made from banana leaves and hand-painted earrings, which were sold to faculty members for $5 to $15. The effort raised $350.

This year the third-graders made sparkle-accented water bottles that sold for $1. Simon anticipates raising more money at a future in-school fundraiser.

Rosenblum also provided Simon with a third-grade “curriculum trunk” — a variety of teaching tools meant to help

students appreciate and understand Kenyan life, according to the Reason 2 Smile website.

“It seems so incredible to think how much we have here in our school,” Simon said, “and how easy things seem for us after we hear about what it’s like to go to school at the Jamba Jipya school.”

Simon recalled a group of children from last year who wanted to help spread the word about helping the Kenyan school. The group wrote a speech that they read over the school’s P.A. system each day, asking their fellow students if they were aware that schools don’t exist in some towns elsewhere in the world, and pointing out that, thanks to Reason 2 Smile, children in a small town in Kenya have the chance to go to school.

On Jan. 11, Simon read the book “Neema’s Reason to Smile,” by Patricia Newman, to one of Seaford Manor’s fourth-grade classes — last year’s third-graders. The story focuses on Jamba Jipya. “They were so excited,” she said.

Simon said the book includes input from Rosenblum, who visits the school twice a year, about daily life there.

Rosenblum said that the questions Seaford Manor students asked at the end of her presentation were very revealing. “One student asked, ‘What would happen if [the students] don’t really want to eat rice and beans every day?’ I said, ‘Well that’s a good question . . . If they don’t eat rice and beans, they go hungry.’”

Rosenblum particularly enjoys visiting elementary schools, she said, because the students “really want to help . . . They genuinely care, and that’s part of our mission,” she said. “To really get them to understand.”

The local schools sometimes connect with the Jambo Jipya school by sending one oversized card overseas that everyone in the school has signed. The Kenyan children respond with drawings or short thank-you notes. “This allows for a more personal connection,” Rosenblum wrote in an email.

This year, she plans to visit two Merrick schools — Harold D. Fayette School, in

February, and Chatterton School, in May. She is also set to give a presentation at Shore Road School in Bellmore on Friday, and has contacted Wantagh Middle School as well.