LLA Fifth-Graders Aid Tsunami Victims
Tuesday morning, Sept. 29, 2009, was the beginning of an ordinary day in Loma Linda. But that morning, many miles away in the Samoan Islands, tsunami waves struck, taking many lives.
One student in Fabiola Guzman's fifth-grade classroom at Loma Linda Academy learned that family friends were missing on one of the islands. This heightened all the students' concerns for the Samoan people. The children prayed with Guzman; then they brainstormed how to help provide the children of Samoa with clean clothes, comfortable shoes and new toys.
Guzman contacted the parents of her student, and with their help they planned an emergency collection to take place in only 48 hours — a challenging, but not impossible, task for one teacher and 26 students.
The children quickly created more than 50 posters to put up on all three LLA campuses, requesting clothing, towels, shoes, blankets, food, money, and of course, prayers. The students were awed as their prayers were answered. With the help of church members Meshach and Linda Soli, from the Yucaipa Samoan church, Guzman's class gathered enough items to fill a 40-foot container that was shipped out October 15 to the Samoas-Tokelau Mission in Apia, Samoa.
"It felt so good to be able to help someone we don't even know," said fifth-grader Sidney Puni. "I was happy that so many things were collected to help my people, the Samoans. This service learning project helped me to learn that we might not have silver or gold, but we do have clothing and other things that people need more than we do and we should share."
The students wrote in their Bible journals how they felt about what they had learned from this project. "We began by telling other people our plan," wrote Alexa Zuti. "Then we passed out notes and put up posters with all the information. It was nice that people really cared about Samoa, and they were willing to give their things to help people they didn't know. I truly enjoyed this activity."
Meshach and Linda Soli have helped provide feedback and communication to Guzman's class from family and friends connected with the mission office in Samoa. They discovered that the mission itself was spared from any major damage; however, many people who work or attend there or live nearby suffered severe losses.
The mission developed a method of fair distribution when the container from LLA arrived along with two other containers. The appreciation and thanks were overwhelming and were passed on to the class through the Solis.
"Service learning projects are such a big part of what we do and who we are here at LLA, especially when the students come up with the idea and make things happen themselves," said Datha Tickner, vice principal. "This will be an experience this fifth-grade class will never forget."