PIKEVILLE, Tenn.—Honors students in the eighth grade at Bledsoe County Middle School are on a mission to change lives in their own backyard and on the other side of the world.
During a lesson about social activism, the children heard about a program to help an impoverished community in Uganda. The Academic Creative Enrichment class teacher, Pam Kiper, was looking for a hands-on project, so she presented her students with ways they could get involved.
"I was telling them about how sometimes your career can be identifying a problem and finding a solution to it, and it becomes your mission in life," Kiper said.
The children considered several groups and ended up choosing Bead for Life, an organization that teaches women how to make beads out of paper and sell them to support themselves and their families.
A main reason the students picked Bead for Life was that it was going to be featured on the "NBC Nightly News," but the show's producers ditched the story.
"We started out being really excited about being on the news, and that was awesome," student Peyton White said. "But when [Kiper] told us we weren't going to be on the news, we were like 'Who cares?' because we were so into the program and enthralled with what we were doing."
The students sell beads and jewelry that Ugandan women make and send to them. Most of the money earned from sales goes back to Uganda, but a percentage is donated to a local nonprofit in the students' community.
The students chose Relay for Life in honor of their principal, who is battling breast cancer. They have raised nearly $1,000 for the Bead for Life organization.
"It's neat to help the people in Uganda, but then you can see the immediate effects here, too," said student Garrett Cagle.
As part of the project, the students have taught their fellow classmates about Uganda and about getting involved. They explain that many children are abandoned because their families simply cannot afford to take care of them. This program helps women support their own children and others that they have adopted, Kiper said.
The students are about to wrap up the program. When looking back on what they have accomplished, they are excited to be able to help.
"They live with so little," said student Sydnee Mills. "They have to support themselves and their children on less than $1 a day. And all they can pay attention to is their food. Not health care, not education, just making sure they survive day to day."
Corrina Sisk-Casson is based in Dunlap. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.