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June 20, 2013

ME students support Haiti

6th-graders walk, raise $3K for orphanage

MANCHESTER — A teacher’s trip and lessons learned in school spurred a group of sixth-graders to help their peers in Haiti.

A stream of aid for a school and orphanage just outside Port-au-Prince, began before April and continued yesterday when about 120 Manchester Essex Regional Middle School sixth-graders took part in an awareness walk.

Sixth-grade science teacher Patricia Locke traveled to Haiti with her church, the South Congregational Church in Peabody, during the week students had off in April.

But, before she left, Manchester Essex students stepped up and donated canned goods and other food for Locke’s trip to the school and orphanage named after Marion Austin, a volunteer who spent much of her time in Haiti.

“She was sent down with duffel bags full of food,” English teacher Joanne Maino said.

Locke said her time in Haiti was wonderful, as volunteers were put to work in their speciality, adding that a dental hygienist and nurses in the congregation did triage on the Haitian students and local residents.

With the age group hovering around the teens, however, Locke was faced with a difficult reality.

“I don’t think they wanted to stay after school for an extra presentation,” she joked.

Locke helped paint segments of the school with other neighborhood children and said the language barrier was no obstacle on the trip.

“Without even speaking our language, they could figure out what to do,” she said.

The local sixth-graders’ involvement did not end with food, however.

They raised close to $3,000 to support the orphanage and school, sponsoring about 10 students, Maino said.

Yesterday, the sixth-graders marched from the school to Singing Beach to raise awareness for problems Haiti faces. They wore homemade T-shirts tie-dyed in the blue and red colors of the Haitian flag during their walk.

Students learned a little bit about the country in different subjects too, including the catastrophic earthquake that hit the island in 2010, Maino said.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity to teach them something and help other people at the same time,” Maino said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000,x 3455 or jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.

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