Lending a Helping Hand

Lending a Helping Hand

Oakton Elementary students collect school supplies for Afghani schoolchildren.

When Back-to-School sales start in July and August, parents find themselves tripping over crayons, markers and notebook paper as they wheel their carts down store aisles. But many countries don't have the luxury of excess school supplies for each student. For many students in Afghanistan, an abundance of school supplies isn't an everyday occurrence.

So when students at Oakton Elementary had the opportunity to send school supplies to the war-torn nation, they took advantage. As part of the school's character education program, two representatives from each of the fourth to sixth grades helped collect school supplies in all the classes. Students brought in all kinds of school supplies -- paper, scissors, binders, pencils, pencil sharpeners, crayons, staples -- and the class bringing in the most school supplies got a pizza party.

But it wasn't the pizza party that motivated the students helping out with the collection. It was the feeling they got from giving.

"It was kinda fun, because we got to see all those people get stuff we already have," said sixth grader Nader Hussein, on his participation.

For two weeks in March, students collected as many supplies as they could. When they were finished, they packed, taped and loaded 20 big boxes onto a truck for delivery. The Oakton PTSA paid for the postage to New York, while the federal government paid for the supplies to go to Afghanistan.

"THEY WERE HAPPY someone less fortunate was getting stuff," said sixth grader Bryan Morris of the students involved.

An American soldier Oakton Elementary has a connection with, distributed the supplies to a school of about 40 children. The children, who come from three different surrounding villages, each received three individual items, while the three teachers and schoolmaster received the remaining supplies.

"I think it was wonderful in that we saw the kids give," said counselor Kathleen Marshall, who helped organize the students. "I think it was something they won't forget."

Indeed, the students involved say the project was worthwhile. When the four student coordinators saw the pictures of the children receiving the supplies, they beamed.

"Some of the kids were smiling, and I thought, I made someone smile," Nader said.