“You are lucky to be born in this country. There are millions of people who want this opportunity. Since you have it, use it,” Mathon Noi shared with West Seneca East Middle School’s seventh and eighth grade students at an assembly back in 2016. The “Lost Boy” from South Sudan moved to Rochester in 2001 and was visiting the school to speak about his journey and experiences adapting to his new home and to share information about the organization Reaching Out 2 Africa.
The assembly was organized by English teacher Nancy Blaszak after she had her then seventh grade students read the book “A Long Walk to Water.” At the assembly, Blaszak said, “Reading about people their own age who cannot go to school because they have to work in a factory, walk for hours on a daily basis to collect drinking water, or are displaced and living in a refugee camp without their family has significantly changed [the students’] limited view of the world. Not only have the kids learned to appreciate the privileges they previously took for granted, they have developed a sense of compassion and desire to help those who are less fortunate than them.”
As a way to help people living in Africa, the school rallied together and began fundraising. Together they raised $1,200.
Time has passed and the then middle school students are now in high school. However, they were recently reminded of their compassion and how it can change the lives of others when Blaszak received a letter from Mrs. Joan Ersing, the executive director of Reaching Out 2 Africa. It was a thank you letter written by students from St. Francis Villa Maria Primary School in Masaka, Uganda, along with two photos.
The letter said, “A pupil of the above school humbly writes to you fellow children to thank you and appreciate the offer you gave to our school of a water tank. We can now harvest the water during rain season. We are enjoying safe water. Thank you very much for your kind love for our school. We pray that the Almighty bless you over and reward you abundant.”
Blaszak made it a point to contact the high school to share the letter with the students who helped make an impact in Uganda.
“It meant the world. I actually started crying,” shared Mary Cooper, a freshman at East Senior. “I was so happy we were all able to do something like that for people who aren’t able to do it for themselves. We can all do something like this. One little idea can spread into something bigger than you think.”