Make A Hands-On Difference for Haiti: Student Update

05/10/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Anne Dilenschneider South Dakota Humanities Scholar, Keeper of the Canton Native Asylum Story, Clinical Counselor

In January, I began following the 442 students of Charlotte Middle School in Charlotte, Tenn. who had decided to partner with UMCOR, one of the world's largest relief organizations, to provide "hands-on" support for Haiti by making 442 health kits.

Once they knew what each health kit needed to contain -- a hand towel, wash cloth, comb, bar of soap, nail clipper or file, toothbrush, toothpaste, and six adhesive bandages -- the Charlotte Tigers took their January focus on the positive character trait of generosity to great heights. All the students pitched in. It was reported that Ms. Richard's sixth grade homeroom students brought in 1293 items for the kits, and Ms. Baldwin's eighth grade homeroom students brought in 965! By the end of February, there were enough supplies to complete 525 kits, and the remaining items were donated to the Dickson County Help Center.

Over the weeks, these students were reflective about the opportunity to be generous and make the world a better place. Seventh grader Isabella Moody said, "It made me feel good to donate because I felt like I was really actually helping instead of just talking about it." Sixth grader Zane Cullom remarked that, "they needed our help" and these are "good people that something bad happened to." His classmate, Ty Weaver, said "It gave them hope." Sheila Staples added that she "wanted to support people in need." Trevor Sinks and McKenzie Broadway shared that they knew the people of Haiti "needed relief and the hope that our giving will help them." Eighth grader, Gabby Darden, summed up the Tigers' attitude: "I knew that if that had happened in America, we would want their help and support."

Across the country, a group of elementary school children worked with Holy Family Episcopal Church in Half Moon Bay, California to create 38 health kits. On Valentine's Day, they read the story, The Giving Tree. And then, while they packed the kits, they talked about how sometimes the most ordinary things can be a real gift and blessing.

Then a California middle school group joined the effort. "Spirit Group," a group of 4th-6th grade students at Joseph Simms Elementary School in Elk Grove, California collected donations of $670 right after the earthquake to help the people of Haiti. After they discussed how they wanted to use these funds, they decided to work with UMCOR because 100 percent of their money would go for relief efforts. Then they learned about the health kit option. Sophia Dew-Hiersoux secured donations of toothbrushes from dentists Dr. Joelle Speed and Dr. Dennis Wong. A local business, Sally Beauty Supply, assisted the students by donating combs. The rest of the items were purchased. But first, each one had to pass the group's test: "we have to find the best but the least expensive!" The students spent a day shopping, calculating, counting and choosing the items, and bought enough to fill the back of an SUV! Then the work began in earnest -- "Spirit Group" created 100 health kits. And, thanks to the donations the group received, there was $270 left over to give to UMCOR for more relief aid to Haiti. When the students were finished, they asked, "So what's next? Who else needs our help?"

What's next? Who else needs help?

Health kits are still urgently needed for Haiti, and will be for months. For information on how to assemble health kits go to:

To find out how to assist the thousands of families in Louisiana and Mississippi who still need permanent housing after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita go to:
Mississippi: (click on "Katrina Recovery")

UMCOR has been in Haiti for years, and has committed to be there long-term. It is one of four charities that received an A+ rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy for their efforts in Haiti. It is also listed as a "Four Star Charity" (highest level) by Charity Navigator.
To learn more about UMCOR go to: