New Albany-Plain Local students in all grades, along with parent volunteers, raised $25,000 for an orphanage in Haiti.
The students recently studied the work of Paul Farmer, a United Nations Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti appointed by former President Bill Clinton and co-founder of Partners in Health, which provides health care for impoverished people on four continents.
Students presented Farmer with a mock check Nov. 29 when he spoke to students from New Albany High School and other central Ohio high schools about his work in Haiti. Farmer appeared in conjunction with the New Albany Community Foundation's A Remarkable Evening, where Clinton was the keynote speaker. The Clinton Global Initiative supports Partners in Health.
The $25,000 will be used to establish a tilapia-fishing operation -- a sustainable business along the lines of what Farmer advocates -- at the Zanmi Beni Children's Home.
New Albany students sold bracelets with the message "Hand in Hand with Haiti" and T-shirts designed by New Albany High School student Keyana Aghamirzadeh. They also purchased water backpacks designed by Greif, a packaging company based in central Ohio, decorated them and sent them to Haitians who often have to travel miles to find potable water.
Parent volunteer Kris Moss the district will continue fundraising efforts "as long as people want to give."
Moss said high school teachers are working with students to start a Partners in Health club. High school Principal Ric Stranges said teachers are even talking about ways to visit Haiti and provide hands-on assistance.
"Your work has changed our school and our job now is to help you change the world," Stranges told Farmer.
Farmer encouraged the students to be wary of "failure of imagination."
"You need to invest in the possibilities," he said, explaining that people shouldn't accept that things can't be done.
To illustrate, Farmer showed photos of Haitians who were dying of AIDS before showing photos of the same people who survived because of the treatment from a clinic built by Partners in Health. He said he founded the organization because of his experience working in a Haiti clinic that was not able to provide much help to natives because it lacked sufficient staff, medicines and organization.
Farmer said Partners in Health is meant to continue indefinitely because the organization finds local partners to help build a health-care system. He called the process "accompaniment," which he defined as finding ways to work with others on a sustainable model.
New Albany Superintendent April Domine said the word "accompaniment" struck home because district officials also work with local partners to provide better educational opportunities, such as bringing in a philanthropist such as Farmer to speak to students.
Several students said they were moved by Farmer's words.
"It was inspirational, definitely, all the work he's done," said C.J. Wulf, a senior at Licking Heights High School. "It inspired me to do great things."
In addition to New Albany, high school students from Licking Heights, Johnstown-Monroe, Columbus Academy, the Columbus School for Girls, Columbus South High School, St. Francis DeSales and St. Charles Preparatory School attended the event.
They listened to Farmer speak at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts on Dublin-Granville Road or watched a live webcast in the New Albany H igh School gymnasium. Community members were able to watch via a webcast in the high school mini theater or on personal computers.