A group of Rochester City School District teachers and students have recently participated in a penny drive to help rebuild a school in Ecuador, following an earthquake in the region which damaged the school earlier this year.
Students at schools 9, 12, 22 and 35 raised $1248.75 in donations for Public School Pedro Fermin Cevallos (Unidad Educativa Fscal Pedro Fermin Cevallos) in Manta Ecuador, which Mateo Hess, a teacher at School No. 9 and former Ecuadorian high school student, hand-delivered to the school.
“I have been at No. 9 School for 30 years,” Hess stated. “I was born in Costa Rica, and grew up in Colombia. I graduated from high school in Ecuador. I came to the USA as a 19-year-old, to begin my university studies to be a teacher at Houghton College. I did my student teaching at No. 9 school in 1986, and stayed.”
Hess said the youth association he currently participates in travels frequently to Ecuador, and, on his next trip to the country, it made sense that he returned with donations from the drive.
“Starting in college my days, 32 years ago, I began taking groups of youth and adults for mission trips,” he stated. “Our youth and leaders have interacted in locations all over Ecuador in schools, churches, and other organizations. Over 80 people in the greater Rochester area have gone on these trips. I planned on traveling to Guayaquil, Ecuador this summer for a planning trip, and it was only natural for me to take the donation from the penny drive with me.”
According to Hess, the students’ donations helped the school rebuild one of its walkways over a sewage system, and contributed to rebuilding the school’s two-story administrative building which was destroyed during the earthquake.
And, by next year, Hess said he and the students who participated in the drive plan to raise even more funds to help with the restoration process in Ecuador.
“After I returned from Ecuador, a retired firefighter from Rochester heard about the kids’ project, and handed me a $100 bill,” he stated. “This is now seed money for a gift we are planning to give next summer, in 2017, to help with the rebuilding.”
This has been a teachable moment for the students who participated in the drive, according to Hess and, hopefully, he said, it will instill in them the desire to continue to help those in need.
“This teachable moment has helped our students realize that they are global citizens,” he stated. “And that the needs of others often pale in comparison to ours, no matter how needy we feel we may be.”