It was another successful year for Bexley's seventh-graders, who again exceeded their goal in raising money for a clinic in South Sudan.
This year's fundraising efforts raised $5,200, which will be used to purchase a new microscope and centrifuge for the Buckeye Clinic in the small village of Piol.
Last year, students raised more than $5,000 to install two water tanks to collect rain water at the clinic, which provides both general health and maternity care to people in the war-torn country.
It's a relationship that started 2011, and has proved to be more rewarding than anyone could have imagined. The partnership was inspired by the book A Long Walk to Water, based on the nearly 35,000 "lost boy" refugees of Southern Sudan, and the Bexley students' study of the Sudanese refugees that began two years ago.
To date, the school has raised more than $10,000. The feat is incredible, said Beth Jax, a humanities teacher at Bexley Middle School, and an inspiration to many.
"I was so impressed by the students' willingness to not only help, but their willingness to learn about why this happened," Jax said. "Hopefully, they then are inspired to take this experience into their high school and college careers and be global citizens."
Jax said because this is a sustainable project, next year's seventh-graders will continue with fundraisers of their own to benefit the Buckeye Clinic, and will be able to make their own decision as to where the funds should be spent.
Seventh-graders first studied the region in a fall unit about Africa. Aspects of the culture came to life through videoconferencing, art and music exploration, and traditional classroom study.
Then, students read the book A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. The book is based on a true story of one of the "lost boy" refugees of Sudan, who searches for his family and safety after his homeland is devastated by war.
Because of the district's relationship with two of the "lost boys" -- Bol Aweng and Jok Dau -- seventh-graders have been able to speak in person to the two about their experiences. Aweng has worked with seventh-grade art classes, sharing both his work and his struggles.
When the two Ohio State University graduates came to the school, they also talked about their return to their hometown, and the clinic they founded there to bring medical care and supplies to the region.
Seventh-graders also learned more about the clinic and how it works from Steve Walker, who aids refugees resettling in Ohio.
After hearing about the struggles of the people of South Sudan, Jax said her students were quick to appreciate their own comforts and access to good health care. But they also learned how even young students in a small Midwestern town can make a difference.
Activities used to raise funds for the clinic this year included a run/walk in May; an auction of student-donated items; an evening with Aweng and Dau, which included a presentation of their experiences, a question-and-answer session, a book-signing of Malauk's Cows, which was illustrated by Aweng, and sale of his art; a Battle of the Buckets; snow-cone sales; Piada Night; and various community donations.