Summer journey to rural Africa is 'well' worth it
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
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
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
“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.
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
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
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