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LFES students shine in coin drive for Zimbabwe school

Fundamental elementary students raise nearly 18,000 to help children in Africa
Nia Tsiolas and her Grade 4 class at Langley Fundamental Elementary school raised $1,406 for Gandidzanwa School in Zimbabwe. Altogether, LFES raised nearly $18,000.

Langley Fundamental Elementary School (LFES) students took a fundraising opportunity and made it shine for the Gandidzanwa Primary School in eastern Zimbabwe.

The school took a step outside Canada’s charitable bounds to partner with the Hear Africa Foundation, and raise funds for an underprivileged school in Zimbabwe by hosting a coin drive. It exceeded all expectations.

The drive had a goal of $10,000, to build two new classrooms and a library.

These additions would be the school’s first proper classrooms, because the Gandidzanwa school has very minimal resources and the students have no furniture to sit on.

In the first two days, LFES had raised half of their goal.

“Each class was given an empty milk jug,” said Ginny Sawatsky, school parent, and one of Hear Africa’s founders.

“The kids just took it from there.”

The Hear Africa Foundation originated in Sawatsky’s backyard, with clothing and small donations, and it exploded into the charity, to give aid in Zimbabwe and promote learning in schools like Gandidzanwa Primary. The organization is volunteer-run, but is thriving as a result of efforts like those of LFES students.

LFES began its relationship with the Zimbabwe school two years ago, when students in two classrooms wrote letters to students in Zimbabwe.

The students were inspired by the cause of helping others and the $10,000 goal was reached within the first four days, with funds reaching $15,000 by the end of the week.

The drive was slated to end on April 15 (last Friday), but students asked to have an extra weekend so that they could do more fundraising. The students of LFES exercised their charitable muscles and raised $17,903.

“It started off as a coin drive,” said Sawatsky, whose daughters attend LFES.

“When we first talked about $10,000 we were very nervous that it was way too much. We thought it would take way into the next school year.”

Students were creative with their fundraising tactics, going further than just collecting coins. They sold items, held bottle drives and one family built 25 bird houses and then sold them.

On the first day of the coin drive, the students were shown video footage from the Gandidzanwa school, where the students could be seen sitting on the floor or in classes outside on the ground.

“It was the movie footage that they saw that really, really moved the kids,” said Sawatsky.

“A lot of our children really had no idea. They couldn’t believe that it was going on in the world.”

Hear Africa has made Gandidzanwa a partner school with LFES and will maintain a connection with the students in both countries and help the schooling community in Zimbabwe grow.

“This is going to be our main fundraiser that we do,” said Alan Wiebe, principal of Langley Fundamental Elementary. “It’s a really neat connection we’ve got going there.”

He said a partnership with the Gandidzanwa School will create a long-term, tangible relationship to a project that his students can see.

With the extra money that was raised, the foundation will consult with their director in Zimbabwe, who is connected to the school, and decide what the next step will be in making the school a better space for students to learn in.

Hear Africa is looking for more schools in the Langley and Aldergrove area to partner with schools in Zimbabwe.