- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

The busy cafeteria of Northwestern High in Hyattsville has been the hub of several fund-raising activities in the past. But this week, student volunteers have been passing out envelopes with pictures of Afghan and American flags for a special reason: to collect a dollar each in response to President Bush's call to help children in Afghanistan.
At Key Elementary in Northwest, students started bringing in envelopes with dollar bills on Friday last week, before the school even had a chance to begin its fund-raising drive. "They heard the president's speech on Thursday and were responding to it. They wanted to learn what he had said," said Principal David Landeryou.
And at Shepherd Elementary in Northwest, the school's student council and teachers are planning a fund-raising drive for later this week that will encourage students to donate a dollar each an expression of giving that dovetails with the school's character-education program and its concept of being concerned for others, said Principal Katherine James.
These three schools are among several in the area that have taken on the job of helping out children in a far-off corner of the world who do not have life's basic necessities and are now faced with the harsh conditions of war.
In a speech last week, the president described Afghanistan as one of the most destitute places on Earth. He called for each child in the United States to donate a dollar to children in Afghanistan, where one in four children dies before his or her fifth birthday, one in three is an orphan and nearly half suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Since his call, children in local school districts have been organizing fund-raising drives to help Afghan children. At Northwestern, where more than half the school's 2,400 students are on free and reduced-price meal programs themselves, children have been giving all they can, said Principal William Ritter.
"What makes it really special is, we give out of our need and not out of our plenty," he said.
The children at Northwestern are not new to giving. In 1998, they raised $10,000 for those in El Salvador affected by Hurricane Mitch. They also collect money each year to sponsor the schooling of two underprivileged children in Honduras.
This time, though, the tragedy has hit closer to home, and many children say it has shaken them enough to want to do something about it. Since Sept. 11, the school's student government class has collected $1,400 for the Red Cross and will hold a blood drive in November.
Students gave up little luxuries to donate to those injured or killed: one did not buy a pair of shoes she had been saving for. Shawn Tate, 17, a senior at the school, gave up lunchtime every day to collect donations. "If you saw the school the day it happened, it was terrible. Everyone was crying," she said, explaining why she decided to help.
Teachers who have been guiding children through the fund-raising process say they are amazed by their generosity.
"The children have been very compassionate," said teacher Janet Hutner, who has been coordinating the $1-donation drive. "Many of our children come from other countries and have felt the effects of unfortunate circumstances. They want to help," she said.
It is still too early to estimate because the donations continue to come in, but so far the children have raised about $75, she said. Mr. Landeryou said his school hoped to collect around $200.
Through the fund raising, Miss Hutner said, she hoped to help the children understand that it was not the people of Afghanistan, but the terrorists that we are at war with. "I hope the fund raising will raise their sensibility and awareness about other cultures and people," she said.
Simultaneous with the drive to collect money for the Afghan children, some students are collecting money to help local children affected by the attacks.
"The parents of some of these children are dead. They need help, and we should help them, as well," said Trevan Lyn, 15, a junior.
Jumana Alhamarneh, 14, a Muslim student who moved here from Syria three years ago, said learning about the Afghan children has made her value what she has. "I feel glad about the way I am and the things I have here," she said, adding that she would definitely put in her dollar to help the children.

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