5th graders lift their hands up for Haiti

By on February 5, 2010

by Susan O’Neill
Sugar Grove—The world just got a little bigger for four fifth-grade girls at Kaneland John Shields Elementary School. Sammy Kowalczyk, Erica Witt, Kayley Bilotta and Samantha Healy have taken on the challenge of collecting basic needed items for the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti.

Chosen for their leadership skills, the girls have made posters, flyers, letters to go home with students and a PowerPoint presentation to encourage their classmates and teachers to donate items such as soap, washcloths, toothbrushes and toothpaste to send to families in Haiti.

They even came up with a slogan for the project, calling it “Hands Up for Haiti.”

School social worker Nicole Pryor, who has been guiding the girls in their project, said they have done much of the work themselves, making decisions and creating the communication to their fellow students.

“It’s been interesting to see them learn how to work together,” Pryor said.

In addition to hygiene and first aid items, the girls decided that collecting sandals and flip flops was important. Healy said that because the buildings were not well-constructed, many of them crumbled and collapsed in the earthquake. She said the footwear will keep the Haitian people from stepping on nails and other debris, and injuring their feet.

Witt said she searched the Internet for trustworthy charities to work with, such as the American Red Cross, Americares and Unicef. The girls wrote a business proposal to FedEx to obtain funding to ship the items.

Then they found a partner in their own hometown. The Sugar Grove United Methodist Church has had a mission in Haiti for years and has the means to transport the items where they are needed most.

The Rev. Steve Good said the people in Haiti will be glad to receive the items the girls are collecting.

When you’ve lost everything, taking care of your personal hygiene helps you to feel better about yourself, he said.

“Haitians are similar to us in this way,” he said. “Being able to brush their teeth and take care of their personal hygiene will lift their spirits as well as their bodies. These items will help them regain some sense of personal dignity.”

Good and his church have a special place in their hearts for the people of Haiti. Good, who lived in Haiti for several months when he was in college, developed a relationship of mission with Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince. Church members have gone to the hospital several times with mission teams.

The Sugar Grove church and other Methodist churches work through local Haitian ministries to support feeding programs, clean water projects, provide school supplies and distribute health care kits.

In addition to collecting money to help with the disaster, the Sugar Grove church is conducting a collection of personal care items to send to Haiti through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), an organization which has provided outreach worldwide for more than 70 years.

Church members will transport these items, including those that are collected through John Shields, to the UMCOR warehouse in Chatham, Ill. From there, they will be shipped to Haiti.

Good said he is glad to see the children at the school become involved in the project.

“Children can relate to other children,” he said. “They know what they’re afraid of; they know what they love to do.”

He hopes the students will develop a connection and a world view through this project that they will carry with them into the future.

Pryor hopes that for them, as well.

“I love to see kids get involved with something bigger than themselves,” she said.

Want to help?
One-gallon re-sealable plastic bags,
hand towels, washcloths, combs,
fingernail clippers, bath-size bars
of soap, toothbrushes,
sterile bandages and toothpaste.

Financial donations may be sent, with checks payable to
“Sugar Grove UMC”
(designating Haiti Relief in the memo)
Kaneland John Shields
Elementary School
85 S. Main Street, Sugar Grove
SG United Methodist Church
176 Main Street, Sugar Grove

Checks may be mailed to
SG United Methodist Church
P.O. Box 226
Sugar Grove, IL 60554

Items will be accepted at the school through Friday, Feb. 12.
Call Nicole Pryor at (630) 466-8500
Rev. Steve Good at (630) 466-4501
visit the church’s website at

For more information about UMCOR, visit the website at www.umcorhaiti.org
or www.intlchildcare.org
for relief efforts through
Grace Children’s Hospital in
Port-au-Prince, Haiti.