Penn State University students are no strangers to philanthropy, raising millions of dollars for charity annually through sheer hard work and determination. The students of Associate Professor of English Myra Goldschmidt's class are no different.

This year's focus: replacing the school supplies of an elementary school in Haiti that was destroyed in the recent earthquake. The destruction of entire communities has impacted the security and stability of Haiti's children and they risk losing the normalcy needed by children everywhere. Haiti is still one of the poorest nations in the world, compounded now by the monumental task of rebuilding.

It's important for children to see their world as a safe and familiar place; they rely on their parents and teachers to provide the safety and familiarity they need. Penn State Brandywine has the means to lessen their suffering in a small way, and at the same time provide a measure of stability in their lives by donating much needed school supplies.

It was the memories of excitedly opening a new box of brightly colored crayons as children, and the feel of a brand new notebook with its crisp white sheets of paper. Add a rainbow pad of construction paper, glue, and a pair of scissors, and the results are magical! This is what brought the project home for the students involved.

Sadly, some of Haiti's devastated communities are so far removed from the larger cities that the residents are only beginning to receive assistance from the outside world, and a box of colored markers may be far outside their reach.

Unfortunately, these simple, everyday needs of children can be overlooked in a disaster. UNICEF Education Chief Maria Lourdes de Vera notes that, "In times of emergencies, concerns of children are not given enough prominence. From the point of view of children, what they need is normalcy. We need to ensure that they have creative experiences. That's their world. Without it, their world crumbles." 

The school supplies will allow these children in Haiti to express themselves creatively once again, and the students of Goldschmidt's Honors Civic Engagement class are committed to providing these essentials for at least one elementary school in Haiti. 

The class has partnered with Wal-Mart in Exton and King of Prussia to actively engage the assistance of the community. They held a pretzel sale outside the Exton Wal-Mart to raise money for the purchase of school supplies. Every dollar of the money raised will go directly to the purchase of school supplies for the children of Haiti.

The students are considering how to allocate the rest of the money that is not being used for the backpacks. Two ideas are scholarships for Haitian children and a school library for the Penn State Haiti School.

For more information or to participate in the class' efforts to make a better world for one group of school children in desperate need, contact Myra Goldschmidt at 610-892-1465 or [email protected]. - by Eileen Fresta, sophomore