EDMOND — Right before recessing for the holidays, Edmond Summit Middle School students were reminded they can help the needy children in the world.
The effort is called Operation Africa, and it provides resources needed by former Summit teacher Meagan Hawley.
Hawley now lives in Zambia and works at the Haven, an orphanage that takes care of about 80 children, mostly babies and toddlers. In most cases, the families have been affected by HIV and AIDS.
The annual fundraising drive at Summit gives students a chance to put together bags for about 500 children in a village near the orphanage. The items many schoolchildren take for granted, such as toothbrushes and pencils, are in demand.
Hawley was back at her former school last week to tell the students about her work.
“The children cheer and cry when the presents are delivered,” Hawley told about 50 students assembled in the cafeteria to help sort and bag supplies. “It's a very exciting day for them, and they are all very appreciative.”
Hawley, who will return to Zambia in January, gets help from hundreds of students, teachers and adults to make the supply drive happen.
“The community helps us also,” organizer Janel Cypert said. “We have dentists in town giving us toothbrushes and toothpaste. We have hotels giving us soap.”
The items are taken to Colorado Springs, Colo., and loaded in containers for shipment to Zambia. That's where the cash donations are used. This year, more than $3,000 has been raised.
“In past years, we've collected more, but this year we didn't have as long between Thanksgiving and the break, and we also lost two school days to the snowstorm,” Cypert said.
‘Need is always there'
Hawley, a Kansas native, attended Oklahoma Christian University. At OC, she started going on mission trips to Uganda and Rwanda.
She taught at Summit for two years before again hearing the mission call in 2006 and eventually moving to Zambia.
Summit students also sponsor a baby. Classes receive a photo of the baby and a list of the child's needs, including clothing, cups, diaper rash cream, baby powder, baby wipes and a toy.
“The need is always there,” Hawley said. “I am so appreciative of what the students and teachers do here.”
After she returns to Zambia, she'll continue to ask for gifts to help her babies. She does that through a blog, http://zambianhavenonearth.blogspot.com.
In a recent post she talked about the joy of visiting relatives and friends in the United States, but added, “Of course, half my heart is back home with all the babies.”
Haven on Earth
Read more about Meagan Hawley's work in Africa on her blog: http://zambianhavenonearth.blogspot.com.