Fourth-grade students help refugees get books by making bracelets

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Thursday, June 23, 2022
Fourth-grade student helps refugees get books by making bracelets
With hands full of rubber bands and hearts full of compassion, New Jersey fourth graders designed a way to help refugees in Kenya.

MARLTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "I know a lot of kids maybe don't like school, maybe don't want to go and learn about fractions," said fourth-grade student Natalie Rogers. "But when you're in a refugee camp, maybe that takes your mind off of the hunger, or that maybe sets you up for a life in America if you could ever have one."

10-year-old Rogers first learned about refugees when her class at Van Zant Elementary School read a book about them. "When Stars are Scattered" tells the story of Omar Mohamed and his brother, who has an intellectual disability, growing up in a Kenyan refugee camp known as Dadaab.

"That really inspired me and I wanted to do something to help the refugees," said Rogers. "And so, I got together a group of friends and we all made bracelets."

Rogers and her friends sold their handmade loom bracelets at the school's book fair. They raised a total of $501.79 with the motto, "Every penny counts." Generous donors from around the school community contributed another $400 to Mohamed's non-profit, Refugee Strong.

"It really moves me because they don't know the influence of what they have done means to those refugee children," said Mohamed, who fled Somalia at the age of four and spent most of his life in Dadaab.

Mohamed left Kenya in 2008 and currently lives in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Through Refugee Strong, he sends educational materials to children who grew up in the same circumstances that he did.

Currently, one United States dollar is equivalent to roughly 117 Kenyan Shillings. With roughly $1,000 in total donations, Mohamed says Van Zant students will help thousands of refugee kids get an education.

"Each child maybe can go to school for $10," said Mohamed. "We don't want any child in a refugee camp to miss school because he or she don't have a book, or a pen or a pencil, or even a school to go to."

Most recently, Mohamed says they have finished construction on the first library in Dadaab. Natalie Rogers and her friends can take credit for stocking a certain section full of books through their donation.

While the inaugural bracelet campaign has reached its conclusion, Rogers hopes to make it an annual tradition at her elementary school.

"If we can donate every year to Refugee Strong, that could change lives," she said. "That could change families' lives. You know, that could just change everything."

To learn more about Refugee Strong, visit their website.

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