Friday, January 19, 2007
CCHS students learn how to change the world
"You have to have a sensibility to the fact that the world outside this community is in need," Ed Cordoza, director of development for Partners in Health, impressed upon everyone at the First Parish Church in Concord on the night of January 12. A lot of people there were already working to make a difference.
About 50 kids taking a class called International Issues at Concord-Carlisle High School voted on a cause for which they would launch a campaign. Their choice was the Red Ribbon Campaign, which delivered a flawless dinner and silent auction on Friday night to raise money for Partners in Health, the worldwide organization founded by Dr. Paul Farmer that works with a country's native doctors to improve health conditions. The students in Mrs. Samantha Fox-Morrow's classes chose to focus on the Lesotho site, a small country landlocked by South Africa.
From the moment I entered the church, there was a distinct African feel. Up on the small stage was Serious Repercussions, the percussion club at CCHS. Authentic African appetizers were being snatched up, and the narrow hall somehow accommodated three long tables, beautifully set with centerpieces and red napkins painstakingly folded into origami shapes. Toward the back of the room was the silent auction, where a wide variety and price range of items were up for bid. Notable items included a weekend on Martha's Vineyard, a shiny new iPod Nano, and beautiful artwork by Concord's Marcia Schloss and Linda Allen. The students in the class put in their own hard work as well: Madeline Vellturo gave a homemade knit scarf, Ben Hoffman offered landscaping hours, and Katherine Watson offered both dance lessons and babysitting.
Besides Serious Repercussions, the CCHS Select Chorus performed a set of songs, and the CCHS Jazz Band filled the rest of the night with a mix of lively and relaxing pieces.
During the auction, dinner was served: fried rice with spicy chicken, mashed bananas with peanut sauce, a spinach dish, and a flat tortilla bread that was gone in 60 seconds. The Walters family of Concord, whose son Peter is in the International Issues class and emceed the benefit, donated all the food from Karibu Restaurant in Waltham.
Toward the end of dinner, the Partners in Health (PiH) promotional video was played and then Jill Hackett, director of training for PiH, delivered a riveting PowerPoint presentation that described the organization's work in Lesotho. Hackett stressed that PiH workers give their entire day, every day, to help other people.
Health care needs in Lesotho
Unlike the United States, where cases of malaria and tuberculosis (TB) are rare and treatable, they are both common and lethal in Lesotho. Imagine 50 people you know. In Lesotho, ten of them would have HIV/AIDS; of those, nine would not be receiving treatment; and of those nine, eight would have both HIV/AIDS and TB. For every doctor in Lesotho, there are 20,000 people, which means 92% of AIDS patients do not receive the medication they need to survive.
In Lesotho, the only way to travel is on foot or on horseback. Most patients cannot make the four- to six-hour walk to the clinic, so PiH workers ride from house to house providing life-saving medication to hundreds of patients. The 300 to 400 people being treated in Lesotho may not seem like a staggering statistic, but since July 2006, progress has been astonishing. The thousand of dollars raised by the Red Ribbon Campaign at CCHS will push that progress further and save more lives.
Cordoza advised that a student looking into helping out should focus on languages like French and Spanish, adding it mostly took "creativity and humility" to do this job, and "a passionate response to do whatever it takes."
The students in Mrs. Fox-Morrow's class should be more than proud of themselves. The benefit was relaxed and enjoyable. Although the official season of giving is over, the hard work and passion shown by the students prompted a generous auction profit. In February, the popular rock band State Radio will play at CCHS in a benefit concert for the Red Ribbon Campaign, even though the International Issues class will have ended by then. In a society where teenagers are often portrayed as selfish and naïve, it's refreshing and comforting to see so many kids passionate about helping others.
Could all this hard work just be for a good grade? Mrs. Fox-Morrow doesn't seem to think so. "Gandhi said, 'You must be the change you wish to see in the world.' These students are the change I wish to see in the world."
© 2007 The Carlisle Mosquito