To see some of the footage profiling the Barton County students as well as their Haitian peers, check out these internet sites:
A year ago the lives of thousands of Haitians were condensed into piles of rubble from an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter Scale. Ironically, that same earthquake has opened up an entire world to gifted students in the center of Kansas.
"Our students are learning first-hand about the devastation in Haiti and the very slow rebuilding process," said Martha Wondra, Barton County Special Services gifted facilitator. "A minigrant we received from the (USD 428) Education Foundation has made it all possible."
Wondra explained that the minigrant was used to join Global Nomads Group (GNG), which has a mission to foster dialogue and understanding among the world’s youth.
"Through media, GNG brings young people together to meet across cultural, national, economic and social barriers and to discuss issues that affect and unite us all," said Grace Lau, Global Nomads Group manager of programs.
BCSS students have already participated in a number of videoconferences with other students throughout the world, most recently with survivors of the deadly Haitian earthquake.
Lau said GNG helped found Students Rebuild: Haiti with the hopes of promoting awareness and raising funds to build 10 schools. The initiative combines "our most creative resource — a worldwide network of young people" with a $500,000 matching grant from the Bezos Family Foundation and expertise from Architecture for Humanity, an international design and reconstruction organization.
"Barton County Special Services has participated in Global Nomads Group programs over the last two years," Lau said. "When they heard about the Students Rebuild program that would connect them to their Haitian peers, they signed up for the opportunity."
In commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the earthquake, BCSS students participated in a special videoconference program with their Haitian peers earlier this week.
"It’s given our students a global perspective to see other things in the world … things that are similar and things that are very different," Wondra said. "What an impact it has on them to move forward in their lives. It has really broadened their horizons."
"I’ve learned about the true impact of the earthquake," said George Tombaugh, Hoisington High School senior. "You can actually interact firsthand from the people who know what is going on instead of learning about it secondhand."
"Not everyone knows what exactly is going on (in Haiti)," said Ethan Woodcock, Hoisington Middle School eighth grader. "Most of my friends know about the earthquake, but not many know about the cholera outbreak or what is happening because of the elections.
"It’s made me grateful for what I have at school – from a computer to running water," Woodcock added.
Tombaugh agreed that the experience has changed his perception of his own world.
"(The Haitians are a group of people) who didn’t have very much to start with and then they lose everything and they are still joyous. (Compare that with us) who have so much, but when we lose a little bit, we complain so much. We have so much to be grateful for," he said.
"While most of the news from Haiti is heartbreaking, Students Rebuild is heartening. It’s transforming lives on the devastated island and beyond," Lau said.
"In less than a year, more than 100 student teams from 21 states and seven countries have raised $110,000 for stronger, safer, permanent schools in Haiti," Lau said.
Wondra said her students have set a goal of raising $2,500, which will be matched dollar for dollar. She admits, however, they have a long way to go in their fundraising efforts.
She is proud that GNG is putting together a 30-minute documentary that her students will be part of. Out of 107 teams, only five were asked to be part of the media press.
"It’s amazing and an honor to be part of it," Wondra said. "We are so thankful to the Education Foundation for allowing us the opportunity to provide this experience to our students."