| May 24, 2007


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Feature Article - 24, 2007

Teacher loses hair over happy feet

by Jeff Green

He might feel like he has put his own foot in his mouth about now, but Hinchinbrooke Public School’s grade 5-6 teacher Josh Siegwart felt he had to do something when his class got off to such a slow start raising money for the Happy Feet campaign, which is providing shoes for students at the Sirende Public School in Kenya.

When his students had only raised $4 towards he Happy Feet campaign, he told them he would shave his head if they brought the total up over $100. Within a couple of days, $127 had been raised, and Siegwart had to hear the buzz of the electric trimmer this past Tuesday afternoon.

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The “Happy Feet” campaign is another in a series of initiatives for Africa undertaken by Hinchinbrooke teacher Debbie Jones. In 2004 money was raised for an orphanage in Ghana; and in 2005 a teacher was hired for a school in Afghanistan thanks to Hinchinbrooke students. Debbie Jones spent a year in Egypt last year, but she is back, and this year she partnered with Marilyn Picard of Bell Rock, who, with a group of Canadian women, went to Kenya last year and will be travelling back to the Sirende Public School this coming November.

“I saw many things in Kenya that I had never seen before,” Marilyn Picard recalled in an interview this week. “At the Sirende school I was appalled at what I saw. There are 1200 kids in the school; most of them sleep in the fields or in the garbage dumps. They eat breakfast and lunch at the school but have no dinner, and no food at all on weekends.

“I taught a class with 98 kids. Many of them stood against the back wall, because even with five students to a desk most of them still had to stand. It is appalling.”

Many of the students at the school have no money for shoes. A parasite, known locally as “jiggers”, is able to dig into the soles of the children’s feet, causing pain and discomfort, and making it hard for them to walk. So, Marilyn Picard decided to raise money for flip flops before returning to Sirende this November.

It only costs two dollars for a pair of flip flops, which are sufficient to prevent the “jiggers” from attacking he children’s feet. Happy Feet make happier children.

Aside from Happy Feet, money is being raised for a clean well in the village and a food program. It takes $40 a month to feed the 600+ children at the school two meals of porridge and rice each day.

Marilyn Picard made a presentation to the children at Hinchinbrooke School and they have responded, raising $719 thus far. Other fundraising events are scheduled later in May and into June, including a Fun Day and a Dance.

“What I’m trying to do is to bridge the gap between the kids in Africa and the kids here, to show them that they are all neighbours. And kids are really smart; they get it, they really get it,” Marilyn Picard said.

Debbie Jones is confident that Hinchinbroke will be able to raise $1,000 towards the project, which is the same amount that Marilyn Picard was able to raise at Ecole Lundy’s Lane, a 600-student school in Kingston, earlier this winter.

All of the money raised will go to the students at Sirende School; Picard and her friends fund their own trips to Kenya.

Donations are being accepted from the public as well, though Hinchinbrooke school, at 613-375-6230.

Meanwhile, back at the Hinchinbrooke gym this afternoon, all of the students from Josh Siegwart’s class got a chance to buzz his head, before his fellow teachers took over to finish the job off.

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