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Student Support: Charity drive helps Philippines

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Alexander junior high students Brittany Bessonette (left) and Jalen Hardy spearheaded a charitable donation drive for children in the Philippines. After raising money to purchase 27 cases of water, the two traveled to the Salvation Army in McComb last week to ship them more than 13,000 miles away.

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Alexander junior high students Brittany Bessonette (left) and Jalen Hardy spearheaded a charitable donation drive for children in the Philippines. After raising money to purchase 27 cases of water, the two traveled to the Salvation Army in McComb last week to ship them more than 13,000 miles away.

The Philippines are about as far away from the city of Brookhaven as it gets. Located more than 13,000 miles away, the set of islands in the Pacific of southeast Asia represent a dramatic difference in not just distance, but language, culture and customs.

So, when Cynthia Edwards, a teacher at Alexander Junior High School, heard where her students were focusing in their desire to help the less fortunate this holiday season, it came as less of a surprise than might be expected.

“We were studying holiday traditions in different parts of the world. When we started looking at the Philippines, and their culture, naturally we talked about the tragedy of the typhoon that occurred there,” said Edwards.

“That’s when the students decided collectively to do what they could to help out the kids in the Philippines,” said Edwards.

On Nov. 7, Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the island affecting the lives of 25 million people. Since then, more than 3 million people have been displaced. Many of them are children.

If there’s a will, there’s always a way. No matter how far away.

Despite the distance between the two places, the kids were determined to fill a specific need, said Edwards.

After explaining to Principal Rod Henderson the scope of their donation, students Brittany Bessonette and Jalen Hardy helped convince the principal to do what he could to help.

Henderson and other faculty members then decided to donate their own time and resources to the project. Parents also got involved. Instead of focusing on one another for Christmas this year, the faculty and parents of students at the school contributed to the donation drive.

Before anything could get started, however, the students had to determine what would be the most practical item to donate to the children in the Philippines.

“At first, the students wanted to donate canned goods and toys to the children,” said Edwards.

After talking to the Salvation Army in McComb, Brittany was advised to consider sending water as an alternative to the students’ original idea.

“We wanted to raise enough money to purchase 25 cases of water,” Brittany said. This would turn out to be a realistic goal.

By the drive deadline, and with help from Edwards and others, the students were able to raise enough money to purchase 27 cases of water. Just under two weeks later, the students had surpassed their original goal.

Last week, Brittany, her mom and Hardy delivered the water to the Salvation Army in McComb. The cases will now be sent all the way to the Philippines.

While a class project, Edwards said Bessonette and Hardy spearheaded the effort. Both were instrumental in coordinating and organizing the event according to Edwards.

“This was Brittany and Jalen’s project. They got the other students involved, and really organized the whole event. They deserve a lot of credit,” said Edwards.