Rapid City eighth-graders' fundraiser makes Bemidji-Haiti connection
BEMIDJI -- Students at Oak Hills Christian College in Bemidji have a long tradition of spring break mission outreach trips.
This spring, the plan was to work in Jamaica. After the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, those plans abruptly changed. When the students take off March 5, they will instead be heading to Port-au-Prince.
The journey planning for one Oak Hills student, Corey Holm, took the long way around through Rapid City, S.D.
Holm said he went to a couple of the organizational meetings for the Jamaica trip, but noted there wasn't a big response. Maybe seven students seemed interested, he said.
"I didn't really feel called to going," said Holm, a 23-year-old transfer freshman aiming toward a degree in youth ministry.
After the Haiti earthquake and the decision to change the destination to Port-au-Prince, he said the number of students signing up jumped to about 27. The trip will be led by the John and Kathie Pederson, 10-year veterans with the Bethany International Short Term Evangelical Mission, which maintains an office at Oak Hills.
"I wanted to go even before they switched it," Holm said of his calling to help the people of devastated Haiti.
The mission trip change was announced one day during chapel at Oak Hills, but Holm didn't have any money. He started doing fundraising and sent out about 90 letters, without much response.
"I probably had $300 two weeks ago," he said.
Students must pay their own way and for their provisions while on the mission trip, although they will be housed and directed by the Christian Center for Community Development in Port-au-Prince.
"They've been there for years and will be there for years," said John Pederson. "They're strongly connected with all the needs, the remote areas, the neglected areas."
Holm said he told one of his Oak Hills professors about his lack of financing. The professor's response was if things aren't working out, maybe he's not supposed to take on the project at this time.
About an hour later, he received a call from his brother, Bob Holm, a technology education teacher at West Middle School in Rapid City saying his eighth-grade students had launched a fundraiser to help him finance the mission trip. Holm said he expected $100, maybe $200, from the students.
"I remember doing fundraisers in student council," he said.
What arrived in the mail Monday was a sample of the students fundraising craft -- a red painted "Heart for Haiti" and a check for $1,484, just about what Holm needs to pay his way on the mission trip.
"They just said they want me to bring them home a Haitian flag," Holm said.
In a telephone interview from West Middle School, Bob Holm said he has 78 eighth-grade students in three classes. He said they watch about 10 minutes per day of Channel 1 educational television news. They students, like most people, were stunned by the footage of the Haiti earthquake, and wanted to do something to help.
"I just said, 'Hey, guys, what do you think about doing a fundraiser,'" the teacher said.
He also mentioned that his brother in Minnesota was on a team going to work in Haiti.
Tech. ed. curriculum combines woodworking and other industrial arts with design, marketing. Because Valentine's Day was coming up, the students settled on the Hearts for Haiti theme. They divided into three teams -- manufacturers to cut hearts out of scrap wood, designers to paint and letter them and advertising to put up posters and make schoolwide announcements when the items were ready for sale. Some students made themselves advertising sandwich boards and walked around the cafeteria during lunch.
"The kids got a kick out of that," Bob Holm said.
The hearts sold for $3 for a small design, $5 for a large image and an extra $1 for a personalized message, such as "Happy Valentine's Day," or "I love you, Mom."
The students spent three weeks manufacturing and selling 258 hearts. Bob Holm said many people bought a single heart but donated $20 to the cause.
"It went really well -- I didn't know what to expect," he said. "It's really neat how (the students) stepped up."
Corey Holm said he is grateful to the students and amazed by the neatness of the timing. When the team reaches Port-au-Prince, he said they would do whatever work their contacts at the Christian Center for Community Development direct them to.
Meanwhile, he said team members are trying to learn a little Creole. But he said he hopes many people can also get along in English.
Molly Miron is a reporter at The Pioneer in Bemidji which is owned by Forum Communications Co.