Walking through San Francisco’s Tenderloin District every morning to get to school, I am constantly reminded of the overwhelming amount of poverty in the area. I walk by the Housing Projects which a number of our families live in, pass lines of people waiting for meals at the soup kitchen, step over cardboard box beds and shopping cart closets, and try not to disturb the homeless neighbors who are trying to get whatever sleep they can on their concrete mattresses.
Even though our students at De Marillac Academy are living in poverty themselves, they recognize how blessed they are just to have the bare necessities that many of the homeless around our school are lacking. This quarter, my fifth grade class is writing a persuasive essay that is encouraging them to reflect on all that they should be grateful for and challenging them to advocate for those who are less fortunate.
While we do a number of activities to help the homeless in our area, our Persuasive Unit raises awareness of the extreme poverty in Third World countries. Our school participates in a beautiful initiative called the Twinning Program in which we raise money to help provide resources to our twin school, the Child Discovery Centre in Kenya, Africa. Thanks to the Student Council, our students participate in a fundraiser called the Cha-Ching Challenge to raise money for the Centre. In order for our class to raise extra money this year, they are writing essays attempting to persuade a stranger to donate to our twin school.
After they complete their essays, I will be sending them to different foundations to see if the students successfully used their persuasive strategies to earn donations for the Centre. I am also challenging them to go out in the community and use their persuasion skills to get donations to add a service project component to this unit.
While this project has been extremely rewarding so far simply because we are helping people in need, it has been particularly special to do a project like this with these students. Even though they have so little, they want to give so much. I planned the project this way so they would not have to ask their parents for money to donate for the fundraiser, but many of them want to donate anyway. They brainstormed the things they could sacrifice in order to give the little money that they have to those who have even less. The poor helping the poorer. How beautiful is that? I can’t help but be reminded of the Bible story of The Poor Woman’s Offering. It is one thing for the rich to offer some of their surplus to the poor, but it is a completely different story for those that have next to nothing to donate the little that they have to help those in need. It is beautiful to think that my students are comparable to the woman from the Gospel (Mark 12:44): “For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
With that being said, I can’t wait to see how much money the students will be able to raise for the Child Discovery Centre; I also can’t wait to see the effects of their compassion for others and their new-found gratitude for all that they have. Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.
Liana Vantrease is a 2nd year LV serving at De Marillac Academy in San Francisco, California and a 2012 graduate of Lewis University.