It is probably difficult for Crow Island School students in Winnetka to imagine how receiving a single colored pencil and notebook could bring a smile to the face of a poor child in Haiti.
But the school recently gathered 20 boxes of leftover supplies at the end of the school year and shipped them to Haiti as part of an effort to instill a sense of empathy in Crow students, said Jo Gilley, co-chair of the school's community outreach committee.
"It was all the supplies that are unused at the end of the year," said Gilley. "Colored pencils, pens, rulers, notebooks, old games and puzzles, some books."
Over the last 10 days of the school year, committee members put out 20 boxes to collect the supplies and sent an email blast to parents telling them that Crow Island students and teachers could donate unused and gently used supplies to "Bright Hope," a Hoffman Estates-based organization that works with churches to fight extreme poverty in Haiti and Third World countries in Africa.
"They work through churches because in most of these poor countries, that's the only infrastructure there is on a local level," Gilley said. "They work through the churches to feed people and to set up schools and that kind of thing."
She said one box sent from Crow Island was packed with colored pencils, and a second box included notebooks and pens.
"It's definitely stuff that a school in an impoverished Third World country would be able to use," she said. "They would probably never have those kinds of resources in those schools unless they were donated."
Gilley also said this was just one of several projects the committee organizes to help the poor while at the same time trying to teach compassion to Crow Island students.
Earlier this year the committee invited students and parents to take part in an event at the school contrasting the everyday lives of an American family and an Angolan family.
As part of the hands-on experience, children and their parents performed the arduous task of using a long wooden pole to grind corn into corn meal, played with a so-called soccer ball made of paper and tape, were shown typical Angolan and American meals, and compared American and Angolan homes, beds, chores, health care and schools.
In the fall, the school holds a food drive for the New Trier Township Pantry. At Christmas students make place mats for nursing homes, and in the spring they make sack lunches for the homeless in Chicago, said Gilley.
"This is an affluent town, so we want to help kids growing up here understand how fortunate they are and build in a willingness to serve," she said. "We're just helping to plant those seeds."
She said the school supplies were already en route to Haiti and that she hoped students at Crow Island would stop to think about they joy their donations would bring to kids in Haiti.
"I just imagine a teacher at an impoverished school in a country like Haiti getting a box full of colored pencils and spiral notebooks, thinking I can give each student a notebook and colored pencil," Gilley said. "They can draw and keep journals. It just opens more possibilities for the teachers, and I think that's pretty cool."