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Local children to lead community with pinwheels

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NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - These colorful pinwheels will raise money to help Syrian refugee children. Tom McCall Upper Elementary School students are cutting paper, spreading glue and talking to their friends, but in the back of their minds, they’re thinking of other children their age who’ve been displaced from their homes after fleeing their war-torn nation.

“I’m really excited. I like helping other people and kids deserve to have the same education we do so they can have a better life,” said Venezia Pazos.

“It’s really cool we’re helping Syrians get education because it’s really bad that there’s a war and some countries are involved in it,” said Henry, a fifth grader who likes to think about what Syrian kids are doing while he’s making pinwheels. “Well, they’re in totally different time zones so sometimes they’re sleeping when I’m making pinwheels for them.”

The pinwheels will help raise money to create classrooms for Syrian children through Students Rebuild, the International Rescue Committee and Global Nomads Group.

The Bezos Family Foundation will buy pinwheels for $2 each, so the Tom McCall students are working furiously to make as many as possible.

“I think it’s pretty cool we get to help people because they had a civil war in Syria so they had to move to different places,” said Neil Lenero.

Each year, retired Forest Grove School District teacher Charlie Graham helps his after-school Roots and Shoots club participants with a community service project connected to a national or international need. The Tom McCall Upper Elementary School Root & Shoots Club members are making pinwheels for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Forest Grove in January.

They’ve created paper bead necklaces, bookmarks and peace cranes, for example, to raise money to bring clean water to communities, clean up after tsunamis and fund literacy projects.

Making the pinwheels is a great way for kids to feel a connection to the Syrian crisis, Graham said.

Club members will share the pinwheel project with the community as part of the annual Martin Luther King Day celebration.

The pinwheels will be part of the march and the students will teach community members to make them throughout the day. Young women at Tom McCall Upper Elementary School  worked hard on their pinwheels before Christmas break.

Many students are writing messages in English and Arabic, such as “get out your courage,” “be kind to your heart,” “love is all you need,” and “peace to the world.”

“It touches your heart and makes you feel happy and makes you believe in your life — like you can do anything,” said Layla Ward.

A young Betancourt folded her paper carefully to make pinwheels to fundraise for Syrian refugees' education.

Tom McCall students have been making pinwheels.

Tom McCall students had fun while they put together their pinwheels.

Tom McCall students took making pinwheels seriously, understanding they were helping other kids their age who have been displaced by war.