Kindness flows from Gansevoort students to Dominican Republic

Published Jun 19, 2017 at 4:01pm

As they looked at a person on an Internet-linked projection screen speaking to them from the Dominican Republic, Gansevoort Elementary fourth-graders learned first-hand how their fundraising efforts were paying off.

“You guys did a super job!....Wow!....I’m blown away,” Kristi Maggio exclaimed Friday morning on the videoconference screen, after students told her a $2,700 check was coming to help fund a water project and storage tanks for a Dominican village that lacks safe water. She is a Rome Free Academy graduate who became a teacher in the Dominican Republic.

“This money will help tremendously....You guys really should be proud....,” Maggio told about 50 fourth-graders who gathered in a classroom for the videoconference with their teachers.

Students raised the money by selling color-beaded bracelets for $3 apiece that they began making at school about two months ago. They hope to raise additional funds by making black-and-orange bracelets that will be sold at the Rome Free Academy graduation event on June 24, said retired Rome school district teacher Barbara Davidson. She helped coordinate the project, which followed a similar bracelet fundraiser that was launched about seven months ago at a Watertown elementary school by her two granddaughters.

The project developed after Maggio learned of a small Dominican Republic village in rural mountains that was without clean, safe water; designated family members must walk two miles one way to carry water to their families. She wanted to raise money to develop a well, and last summer met up with several people from Rome who were in the Dominican to attend a wedding, including Davidson.

Overall, slightly more than $7,000 has been raised so far including Gansevoort students’ contributions, Maggio told Gansevoort fourth-graders. Work has begun for the project, including materials arriving to make the first of two storage tanks for water that will be pumped from a spring, she said. She added about $5,000 more is needed for the project, which she hopes can be completed in about six months.

It will serve about 3,000 people.

Several students presented questions to Maggio during the videoconference, including various details about the well/spring project’s construction, capacity, and operation. Another question asked about similarities and differences in the local and Dominican school systems. While Dominican public school students take similar courses like math and social studies, said Maggio, they “learn everything in Spanish” and the schools “do not have the technology and books” to the extent of schools here.

Maggio expressed appreciation for Davidson’s efforts in the bracelet fundraiser, saying “none of this would have happened without her.”

Bracelets made by the Gansevoort fourth-graders were sold at a school district concert, and students also sold them within other grade levels at their school plus within their families, Gansevoort Principal Wendy Waters noted.

During the videoconference, Waters remarked “I just want to thank teachers and students...coming together as a community to pay it forward.” While “a lot of instructional time” was needed for the bracelet project to “make it happen,” she said, such projects that are done from the heart can sometimes be “more important than what you learn from a book,” she remarked.

“Thank you to teachers and students for putting Gansevoort on the map in a very positive way,” Waters commented.

Maggio said she will send photos of the water project as it proceeds, so that students can “see first-hand what they have done to help these people.” Many of the students will “still be with us next year” to see the updates, said fourth-grade teacher Michael Scerra. Gansevoort currently is a grade K-4 school, but by September will convert to a grade K-6 school as part of a district-wide elementary student realignment.