From Welches with love

Middle school students sponsor African child
by: Garth Guibord, Leadership students hold a poster they made that shares the story of the African boy they sponsored.

Valentine's Day is the holiday of love, and leadership students at Welches Middle School are making sure they spread it around everywhere - including Africa.

As part of a project the class took on more than a year ago, the students will sell roses, 'Vale-grams' and sodas to schoolmates to help raise money for a young boy in Zambia they adopted last year.

'It's not all about us,' said eighth grader Janessa Well, 14. 'We don't take the money we earned and buy ourselves presents; we're doing it for a purpose.'

That purpose began when Hannah Leslie - now a freshman at Sandy High School - came to her classmates with an idea. Her family had sponsored a child in need, and she thought the leadership class, which assists in a number of school events and school spirit activities, could also adopt one.

'I just decided that we should do it for more kids,' said Leslie, 15. 'I wanted to help more.'

The class sponsored Jonathan Mwewa, an 8-year-old boy in Zambia whose family income is about $50 per month. When students read about Jonathan's living conditions, they knew they had to help.

'It's really hard,' said eighth grader Jasmine Plaster, 14. 'He lives in a small house; I think there's only one bed, a coal stove and a floor that just has a mat (for the kids to sleep on).'

'The floor is dirt, and the toilet is basically a hole in the ground,' Well added. 'It's pretty rough.'

The students got to work and quickly raised the money needed to sponsor Jonathan through Children International (

In addition to the Valentine's Day fund-raiser, the students also have raised money by putting on themed dances every two months and selling pizza and breadsticks.

'All of the money that we raise for him pays for his dental issues, school, all that stuff,' said Plaster.

Jonathan also receives Christmas and birthday gifts from his Welches student-family. And with his 10th birthday just around the corner (Feb. 24), sixth grader Olive Lamarre got an idea for a potential present from watching TV.

'Right now a lot of people there are dying of malaria because the rivers are flooding and the mosquitoes are coming out into their houses,' said Lamarre, 12. 'There was a commercial on TV (for people) to send a net.'

Students have found sponsoring Jonathan to be so rewarding that they might add one more child to their family.

'We were thinking about maybe sponsoring another kid in addition to Jonathan,' said eighth grader Sarah Gall, 13. 'But we wouldn't let Jonathan go.'

Their dedication to the project has made a great impression on their teacher, Debbie Borge, who hopes the lessons learned through the class and this project help them as they become adults.

'If they're excited about something, you just let them run with it,' said Borge. 'And they do. It was not a problem at all to raise the money.'

'It's really important (to give), especially at middle school age,' she added. 'Hopefully it will set a tone for their life - how good it feels to be part of something bigger than your school community.'