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Stafford students work for sister school

Fourth-graders raise $1,800 at their annual marketplace event


by: KATE HOOTS - Fourth-graders Ty Park, left, and Jonah Adams offered multiple items at their booth, including handheld moustaches like the one purchased by Sam Schecter.Business was booming at Stafford Primary School on June 4, when fourth-graders presented handmade crafts for sale to fellow students. All proceeds from the event would benefit primary schools in Tanzania through a charitable organization called Africa Bridge.by:  KATE HOOTS - Devna Howard and Lauren Ulwelling, both fourth-graders, shared a booth, selling handcrafted items such as cross-stitch magnets.

“Africa Bridge connects us to Pakati School in Tanzania,” Peyton Henry said. The fourth-grade vendor was selling “pencil people” and pins at the booth she shared with classmate Lilly Curdy, who was available to paint fingernails — $1 for one hand or $2 for both.

“Lots of people have been doing it,” Lilly said, adding that practicing her craft was complicated by some of her younger customer’s still-developing math skills. “It’s a little hard, because you’re rushing to paint nails and having to help kindergartners with their money.”

An annual event, the fourth-grade marketplace is one way Stafford students support schools in Tanzania. That support begins in second grade, when students participate in the Read to Feed/Read to Build reading challenge. Stafford teachers have fostered a special bond between students and their Tanzanian counterparts, especially those at Pakati School.

Jody Amri was one of the teachers who helped develop the Pakati connection. Amri is a long-time second-grade teacher who moved to third grade this year.

“After their ‘great people’ unit, second-graders learn how great people make a difference in the world,” Amri said. “We wanted to see if we could too.”

Teachers originally steered students toward Heifer International, encouraging them to raise money to purchase animals that would allow overseas students to earn money and attend school.

The success of such animal-ownership initiatives, Amri said, led to an unintended problem: overcrowded schools with inadequate classrooms. More students in school meant more buildings were needed, along with more furnishings and supplies. That need led the Stafford community to Africa Bridge and the Pakati School. Stafford students now exchange letters, pictures and videos with their African “classmates.”by:  KATE HOOTS - Jonah Adams, fourth grade, stands in front of his booth at the Stafford marketplace.

Although the relationship began with second-graders’ efforts, students wanted to develop it as they grew older. The fourth-grade marketplace is one way students continue to support Africa Bridge.

“Each successive fourth-grade class has continued the tradition of seeing how they can use their skills and talents to benefit our sister school in Tanzania,” Amri said.by:  KATE HOOTS - Fourth-grader Peyton Henry, left, sold pencil people and pins at her booth, while Lilly Curdy painted customers fingernails.

Calling the marketplace a longstanding tradition, PTSA President Rachel Stevenson said it was also “a rite of passage for the fourth-graders at Stafford,” adding that students don’t even realize how much they learn.

“What a pleasure it is to see the kids doing math, business planning and marketing, all while having fun and raising money for a wonderful cause,” Stevenson said. “Marketplace is one of those annual events that we all look forward to.”

Event coordinator Shelly Ellett, parent of fourth-grader Lauren as well as two other Stafford students, said preliminary sales figures were higher than anticipated.

“Fourth-graders can make change,” Ellett said. “They set their goal, worked hard to create their products and exceeded what they set out to do. In two hours, 50 Stafford students made about $1,700 that will go to support students in Tanzania. Wow!”

“I never expected it would be so much work to run a business,” said fourth-grader Ella Notdurft. “But it’s fun.”

She sold neckaces and bracelets and estimated that she had earned about $20, all of which will benefit Tanzanian students.

Africa Bridge Board Member Roger Woehl, a former superintendent for the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, said that in the past Stafford students’ donations have allowed Africa Bridge to remodel all the classrooms in Pakati School, among other projects. A sign inside Pakati reminds the Tanzanian students of their connection to Stafford.

“The kids in Pakati see that sign,” Woehl said. “The word ‘Stafford’ means a lot to them.”

This year’s priorities, Woehl said, include new desks for five primary schools in Tanzania. by: KATE HOOTS - Second-graders Ksenya Kochan and Charlie Hogan found many items to buy at Stafford's fourth-grade marketplace.

“We raised enough money to do those,” Woehl said, “and there was a secondry goal of up to five toilets. It sounds like a strange goal, but (not if) you’ve seen the toilets there.”

Africa Bridge’s current goals focus on making classrooms safe for use, including concrete floors, watertight roofs, window casements and glass.

“The kids really want to be (in classrooms),” Woehl said, “but they are in really bad conditions. It makes a big difference to have classrooms that kids can be in.”

Africa Bridge projected a cost of $17,800 for its current improvement wish list. Stafford students were helping to make that wish list a reality, one handmade key chain, bracelet and magnet at a time.



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