Second graders rally around Haitian classmate

Haiti, February 10, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Andrea Stevenson  </span>
    Shania (left) and Fabiola Dormezil. Photo: Andrea Stevenson

Shania Dormezil, a second grader at Sacramento Elementary, was born here in the United States. Her sister, fourth grader Fabiola, was about three years old when the family immigrated from Haiti, and her brother, fifth grader Kevin, was about four. The family still has many relatives in Haiti, and they speak French and Creole at home in Portland, where the three children live with their parents and grandparents.

The day after the earthquake, Shania came to school visibly upset. Her classmates immediately gathered around, trying to comfort her.

“They were saying, ‘It’ll be OK…. It’ll be OK,’” says principal Stevie Blakely. Shania’s family is still awaiting word on the condition of their family members in Haiti. “They think most of them survived, but they haven’t heard from everyone,” says Blakely.

Meanwhile, the kids sprang into action.

“They wanted to do a project to help the people in Haiti,” says Blakely. They decided to use the watercolor technique they had learned in art class to make greeting cards to sell. Each child painted cards on a snowman theme, which they sold to parents and neighbors to raise $233 for Mercy Corps’ relief efforts in Haiti.

Now they’re planning a second art-card fundraiser, on a fairy tale theme. “Ours is a very diverse school, with 15 languages spoken,” says Blakely. “It’s a high poverty neighborhood. These kids don’t have a lot. But they are so moved, and they want to give.”

Other grades are also thinking up Haiti fundraisers. “Our school is looking at what Haiti will need for many years ahead,” adds Blakely. “We want ours to be a long-term commitment that’s meaningful for the kids.”