Students help raise money for new school, learn about new culture
By Suzanne Misciagna, Staff Writer, The Times
EAST MARLBOROUGH – For students at Unionville Elementary School in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, walking 45 minutes to get to school seems unimaginable. However, they learned that this is the reality for many students at Lighthouse Academy – a ‘sister’ school they recently adopted in Kenya, Africa.
Lighthouse Academy is a K-12 school founded by Dorothy Dulo, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania resident who was born and raised in Kenya. Dulo witnessed first-hand, the struggles Africans face – namely poor living conditions, health concerns, and lack of education.
Dulo, who attended college in the United States, returned to Kenya for a visit and immediately felt a calling to help the people of Kenya.
“I sensed a call to be a bridge of hope to my community,” says Dulo. “I was reminded of my personal journey from childhood to college. I knew God was calling me to use this experience to bring hope to my community and the continent of Africa.”
When Unionville Elementary School Counselor, Kourtney Phillips, first heard of the needs of Lighthouse Academy, she and Principal Clif Beaver, agreed to help.
“The Sister School Program with Lighthouse Academy gives our students the opportunity to develop connections with children from another country and culture,” says Beaver. “It gives students a greater understanding of diversity and an appreciation for a different way of life. It shows them the impact they can have on our world by showing kindness and acceptance of differences.”
Situated on a 12-acre property in the midst of a small village of Alendu, Lighthouse Academy is a beacon of hope for the community and the nation of Kenya. Lighthouse, which first began with one kindergarten class, now has 200 students enrolled in Kindergarten through eighth grade. Enrollment consists of students who would not be able to receive an education due to poverty, being orphaned, or abandoned.
The Lighthouse Academy is part of the Rafiki Africa Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Dulo and her husband. The foundation’s mission is to provide African communities with resources to transform their quality of life and provide the tools for spiritual, emotional, and economic well-being.
Students at Unionville Elementary have been busy learning as much as they can about their new ‘sister’ school, including the struggle to gain access to education.
“For children in Kenya, going to school is a privilege,” says Phillips. “There is no school transportation for the students at Lighthouse. Some students walk as far as 45 minutes away just to attend school,” she adds. “There are many other children who would like to receive an education but live too far away.”
The school itself is also surrounded by environmental issues such as deforestation, water pollution, and poor management of natural resources. There is also a shortage of food in Kenya which many are determined to eradicate. For example, students at Lighthouse Academy are involved in the agricultural process of planting and harvesting food from a farm. This food feeds the students at the school. Students are then encouraged to take these skills and apply them in their homes.
With these challenges in mind, groups of students at Unionville Elementary banded together to create a video about the Sister School Program. Students gathered photos of Lighthouse Academy along with facts about the school and ways of life in Kenya. The video was created to educate students and staff about the Sister School Program and to show how they can make a difference.
One immediate goal is to help raise money for a new school in Kenya and to provide Lighthouse Academy with basic school essentials such as school supplies and books.
In October, Unionville Elementary students were busy selling bracelets made by the students at Lighthouse. The bracelets were sold at the Unionville Community Fair. Proceeds from the sale went directly to Lighthouse Academy.
A school supply drive was also launched during the month of January. Supplies were sent to the students at Lighthouse and some were also donated locally to Bayview Avenue School in Freeport, New York which was affected by Hurricane Sandy.
In addition, a book drive was held with the hopes of filling the shelves of the Lighthouse Academy library.
Upcoming projects include the creation of a banner to be placed in the new school and a letter swap and friendship bracelet swap to connect with their fellow ‘sister’ students.
A sponsorship program is also offered through the Rafiki Africa Foundation. This program allows for sponsorship of a child or a student to help pay for their education expenses.
While Unionville Elementary students are making a difference, they are hoping that everyone will get involved too.
If you would like to sponsor a student from Lighthouse Academy, or would like to learn more about the Rafiki Africa Foundation, visit www.rafikiafrica.org.