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Back to Communications Home

Summer journey to rural Africa is 'well' worth it

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 26, 2016) -- The Pine Hills Elementary School geography bear will have some wonderful stories to share about summer vacation when students return to start the new school year.

 

Principal Vibetta Sanders and teacher Deann Lynch took the school’s well-traveled unofficial mascot with them on a journey halfway around the world during August. Sanders and Lynch travelled to the east African country of Tanzania to be part of a project the school’s students started three years ago.

 

Led by its students, Pine Hills Elementary raised $15,000 to support the construction of a new freshwater well in the rural Mkuranga District.

 

Sanders and Lynch were on hand to help with the final stages of the well’s construction during the week of Aug. 8. They helped install the well’s solar panels, taught a full-day art lesson at the 670-student Mwangozo Primary School and participated in the well’s ribbon-cutting ceremony (Sanders [peach shirt] and Lynch [blue shirt] are pictured in front of the well during the ceremony; photo courtesy of the African Reflections Foundation).  

 

About 900 people attended the Aug. 12 ceremony, including the school's students, family and community members, and a representative from Tanzania’s Parliament.

 

Sanders and Lynch also brought nearly 100 pairs of shoes and sandals for the students, as well as several large duffle bags of art and school supplies that Pine Hills Elementary collected (pictured below, Pine Hills students help give Sanders and Lynch a proper send-off with the supplies at school Aug. 5).

 

It was the first time Mwangozo Primary School's students ever had used Crayons.

 

“This project is something for our district and community to celebrate,” Sanders said. “Our children are able to feel empowered by being able to give back to others.”

 

For more information about the trip and the well project, including more photos and video of Sanders and Lynch in Tanzania, visit the African Reflections Foundation on Facebook.

 

The journey and the construction of the well was the culmination of a service-learning project for Pine Hills Elementary students.

 

It also was a very personal endeavor for Lynch. Her aunt, retired nun Mary Stella Greco, had herself funded the construction of a freshwater well in Africa. Greco, who dedicated her life to helping others, was murdered in Schenectady on New Year’s Eve 2013.

 

Sanders and Lynch – and geography bear! – will use their summer vacation as a learning tool when school resumes in September. Staff and students will focus on developing another school-wide service-learning project, but the connection to Mwangozo Primary School will continue for Sanders and Lynch.

 

The school’s 670 students are taught in six total classrooms – three indoor and three outdoor. Sanders and Lynch have committed to a personal fund-raising effort to raise $5,000 for the construction of a fourth indoor classroom at the school.

 

The mission of the City School District of Albany is to educate and prepare all students for college and career, citizenship and life, in partnership with our diverse community. The district serves about 9,500 students in 17 elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to neighborhood schools, the district includes several magnet schools and programs, as well as other innovative academic opportunities for students, including four themed academies at Albany High School.

         
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