Funds Raised by Iona Prep Students Go Long Way at South African School

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Students in the Human Rights Club at Iona Prep’s Upper School are able to see the difference they’re making in the lives of students at St. Mary’s Primary School in Bloemfontein, South Africa, after the club raised more than $8,000 over four years for the South African school.

“People can see who they are helping. We get pictures and videos of students we are supporting,” said the club’s co-moderator Patricia Gray, an English teacher at Iona Prep in New Rochelle for 23 years.

“When we show these videos or do a Skype call, you can hear a pin drop,” she said. “You can see when we get videos of students thanking us, it makes a human connection very well. It’s very important we’ve made this connection.”

The Human Rights Club’s Beyond Borders Bake Sale Oct. 28 featured baked goods prepared by students, faculty, administrators and staff. The money raised at the bake sale was used to assist 20 St. Mary’s students with  tuition and uniform fees.

Iona Prep has also assisted St. Mary’s with 20 iPads, a classroom renovation, exterior painting, material for a robotics class, a laptop, food for a lunch program and purchasing desks.

“I am so proud of all the efforts of our school,” Mrs. Gray said. “This is my home away from home. I’m happy to be part of a family so caring, giving and open minded.

“We’re committed to get (St. Mary’s students) from kindergarten through 12th grade.”

The Human Rights Club began five years ago and has grown steadily to about 20 members. It started assisting St. Mary’s in 2017, a year after Mrs. Gray attended the first Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders conference in New Delhi, India. St. Mary’s is not an Edmund Rice school, but Victor Sekakatlela, principal of St. Mary’s, attended the conference and met Mrs. Gray.

Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders, an international network of Catholic schools, is present in more than 20 countries at 280 schools educating almost 200,000 students.

“I’ve learned what these kids go through to just go to school,” said Jaxson Salmon, an Iona Prep junior and two-year club member, of the St. Mary’s students.

 “Every kid should be able to go to school no matter what their upbringing is and where they live. It makes me feel amazing to know I helped a couple of kids get through school and live a healthy, educated long life. Every child needs an education.”

Peter Fernandez, the Iona Prep student body president, said it’s easy to see what’s being accomplished through fundraisers such as the bake sale. He said he now has a greater appreciation for what he has after learning $50 he used to purchase a pair of sneakers would pay for a full year of tuition at St. Mary’s.

“I was not aware of the variety of causes the club helps with,” said the senior, who is planning to join the club. “I’m glad everyone cared and helped this cause.”

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