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RH teacher helps school get national kudos

Your vote can help fund Haiti project

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POSTED: May 13, 2010 12:59 p.m.
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Amy Perry with a child in Haiti.

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Elementary school students from Savannah Christian Preparatory School have earned national recognition for their “Help Haiti” project.
Second-grade teacher and Richmond Hill resident Amy Perry created and submitted a video about the students’ humanitarian efforts to Howard Johnson’s “Give Happy Challenge,” a national contest that recognizes people who spread happiness in their own unique ways. Her video, entitled “Just a Toothbrush,” has been selected as a semi-finalist, making her one of eight contestants eligible for the grand prize.
If Perry’s video receives the most votes, she and her students will receive $15,000 to further fund their assistance to Haiti, as well as a special performance by the Harlem Globetrotters. Perry, in conjunction with Savannah Christian Preparatory School, has decided that she will use the prize money to send a medical and dental team on a mission to help impoverished Haitians in the northwestern city of Port-de-Paix.
The impetus for the school’s original "Help Haiti" project came from its faculty’s personal connections with Haiti. Several teachers and staff members, including Perry, have served as missionaries in Haiti, and their experiences inspired the school’s humanitarian efforts. “Having been on several mission trips to Haiti, I’ve seen the desolation and poverty of the country. When the earthquake hit in January, I knew that our school desperately needed to help,” Perry explained.
The school organized a demonstration to help the children understand the scale of the earthquake’s devastating effect on Haiti. Using string to simulate the small size of a typical Haitian home, Perry conveyed Haiti’s poor living conditions and meager resources in terms that the students could comprehend. “I explained to them that a family usually makes less than a $1 a day, and if they are lucky enough to have a toothbrush, they must share it.”
The children were most affected by the knowledge that an entire Haitian family often shares a single toothbrush. Wendi Patrick, director of marketing and public relations at SCPS, explained the significance that this news had on the children. “The kids were really captivated by the toothbrush concept. In a way, the toothbrush really became a symbol of Haitian hardship for them.”
As a result, elementary students donated more than 3,000 toothbrushes in the following days. Ella Murns, a first-grader who was particularly shocked by the idea of a communal toothbrush, donated hundreds of toothbrushes to the cause. “I wouldn’t want to share a toothbrush with my sister. We had to get as many toothbrushes as we could find. I asked my granddad, who is a dentist, and he gave us a lot.” she said.
In addition to toothbrushes, students also donated hundreds of diapers, bottled water, personal hygiene items, and first aid supplies. A fifth-grade participant, Rebekah Branch, explained her personal motivation for donating.  “I can’t imagine not having much to begin with, and then, what little you do have is taken away. We had to give back.”
When Perry learned about Howard Johnson’s “Give Happy Challenge,” she jumped at the opportunity to spread the word about her school’s program. “I hoped that we could take what we had already done and multiply it,” she said.
Her video is available on the contest’s website, www.thegivehappychallenge.com. It is appropriately named “Just a Toothbrush,” after the students’ overwhelming response to the lack of personal toothbrushes in Haiti. The video explains the motivation behind the school’s humanitarian project, and it highlights the students’ efforts to help Haitians in need.
Voting for the semi-final round will be open until May 16. If Perry’s video receives enough votes by that date, it will continue on to the next round and be one of four final contestants eligible to win the grand prize.
The challenge winner will be announced on June 21, 2010, to celebrate summer, the "season of happy."
If you would like to help Savannah Christian Preparatory School’s students succeed in establishing a medical and dental mission to Haiti, please visit www.thegivehappychallenge.com and vote for Amy Perry’s video. Individuals are permitted one entry per day, and you can vote everyday until the conclusion of the contest.
 

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