Students of the winning class group (K-6) are pictured with the box of money they raised. Teachers are pictured in the back row; from left to right are Stu Burgess, Jackie Hodel, Mary O'Leary, and Emma Shanahan.
As one of Paisley School’s current foreign exchange students, Ege Mavinil, is from Turkey, the recent earthquake that killed thousands in the country felt a bit closer to home for students at the rural school. Mavinil inspired a fundraising effort at the school that carried over into the community and resulted in over $1,300 being raised for earthquake relief in Turkey.
Paisley English/social studies teacher Stu Burgess said Mavinil — who many of the students call “Bob” because they struggle to pronounce his name — began talking to him about doing something to help his country after the earthquake struck. He asked Burgess if he could hang a poster letting people know how they could donate.
With international phone numbers on it, Burgess told Mavinil he didn’t think a poster would have much effect. Instead, they came up with the idea to have students participate in a friendly competition to see which classes could raise the most money to help with disaster relief in Turkey. Four groups of students competed against each other including kindergarten through sixth, seventh and eighth, freshmen and sophomores, and juniors and seniors.
The K-6 group came out on top with nearly $300 raised. Fifth grader Mason Harms said his parents keep a jar of change that is “decent sized” which they contributed to the effort. He said his mom told him to always help people when he has the chance and it made him happy to contribute.
Fourth grader Clark Ohlenkamp emptied his gumball piggy bank for the fundraiser; he’d been collecting money in it for a year. Combined with money his family kicked in, he was able to donate just over $30 to his class’s collection. “It makes me feel really good,” he said of helping others.
Every little bit counted, and Burgess said he counted a lot of pennies over the week that money was coming in from students. The prize for the winners — in addition to contributing to a worthy cause — was a pizza party. The pizza came from Paisley’s Pioneer Saloon.
Once word got out about the fundraising effort, community members began donating as well.
The school’s initial goal was to raise $1 for every person in Paisley, for a total of $252. That goal was surpassed in the first day, Burgess said. With the help of donations from the Volunteers in Paisley (VIP) group, Refuge Church Paisley and Refuge Community Church — VIP donated $100 while each church donated $300 — $1,684.13 was raised for earthquake relief in Turkey. Paisley School’s student body president extended the challenge to Lakeview and North Lake schools to beat that total.
Burgess has been teaching at Paisley School for two years and said nothing like this fundraiser has been done “for quite a while.” He expressed that he is proud of the school, its students and the community for stepping up. He said it is up to Mavinil where the money goes; Burgess has been researching relief organizations to ensure their legitimacy before making the donation. Mavinil said his school back home has donated to aid those affected by the earthquake as well.
“It’s been really heartwarming to see the support all around the world and from Paisley to support a country halfway across the world,” Mavinil said. His family was not harmed in the earthquake; they live in the northwestern part of Turkey while the earthquake occurred in southern Turkey. He learned about the disaster “in a single message from someone I barely know,” he said. He recalled being anxious and afraid when he heard the news. He is thankful his family is safe.
Mavinil is 15 years old, and this is the most devastating earthquake to strike Turkey in his lifetime. He mentioned the 1999 earthquake that struck near Istanbul — where he is from — and noted that “it’s sad to see we haven’t learned from it.” Old and substandard infrastructure is thought to have contributed to the severity of the damage and high death toll in February’s quake. The Feb. 6 earthquake was a 7.8 magnitude; 1999’s was a 7.6.
On Monday, Feb. 27, a 5.2 magnitude earthquake struck the same region in Turkey, “killing one person, injuring 110 and causing 29 buildings to collapse,” according to Reuters.
Mavinil encouraged anyone who would like to donate toward the disaster relief on their own to consider sending funds to the Turkish Red Crescent — the largest humanitarian organization in Turkey and part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
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