|Walking to boost African education|
|Middle school fundraiser pays for tuition|
|Published Thursday, March 20, 2014 9:04 am|
Students at Piedmont IB Middle School walked in the shoes of African orphans to raise money for their education.
The students – 130 of them, with another 20 teachers and parents – walked six miles from Park Road Shopping Center to their school at East 10th Street to raise funds for orphans to attend secondary school in Malawi. The Charlotte march raised nearly $10,000 – enough to pay for books and tuition for 32 children.
“I thought that was really good,” said Steve Cook, the founder of Equitas, a Charlotte-based nonprofit that sponsors humanitarian programs in underdeveloped countries. “In Malawi, primary education is free – the government pays for that. Secondary scbool is not, so it’s $300 a year, which covers one student, their school fees, their uniforms, their books, their shoes and any other supplies like notebooks or pencils.”
Orphans make up 1/16th of Malawi’s population of 16 million and most can’t afford the cost of secondary school, the U.S. version of high school. Without education, most Malawians turn to farming, the occupation of 85 percent of the population.
The walk, called #PiedmontWalk4Ed was organized by Jonathan George, a teacher at Piedmont who lived in Malawi for a year. He developed the idea after hearing about Portiphar, an orphan in Equitas’ scholarship program, who walks six miles to his rural school.
“All the students in our program are orphans,” said Cook, who is a documentary filmmaker. “We currently have 200 in our program, so the 32 they helped with really helps us out a lot.”
Despite a brisk temperatures, the students were in good spirits as they proceeded from Park Road Shopping Center to campus. Cook said their empathy and compassion for others stood out most.
“I was extemely impressed with the way they vocalized their desire to help,” he said. “They wanted to help the small community of orphans that we educate in Malawi, but they also wanted to walk in their shoes for a morning and find out what it’s like to walk to school for six miles.”
For more on information on the PiedmontWalk4Ed, call Cook at (704) 258-5859.
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