For more than two decades, Triple C School students have embraced the idea of charitable giving, encouraged by principal Marjorie Ebanks, who has carefully chronicled all the funds raised over the years.
It all started in 1984, when a missionary from Haiti visited the school and spoke to the students about conditions in his country. His discussion about life in the orphanages there, and how children could only manage to get fed once a day while at school, touched the students at Triple C.
Mrs. Ebanks encouraged the children to open their hearts and their piggy banks.
‘I told the kids to bring in 25 cents every Friday,’ she said.
That initial giving campaign led to US$676 being sent to the Haitian missionary to benefit an orphanage.
The tradition of weekly missions offering was born and now each class keeps an envelope into which the children put their money. The weekly deadline is Thursday after which the money is collected and counted by student volunteer Chelsea McField.
The 11th grader was eager to get involved.
‘I just like helping people. I like the idea that Triple C likes to give. I went to a different school before and they didn’t do anything like that.
‘I like the idea of giving and I wanted to be a part of that. I know the money always goes to the right places,’ Chelsea, 16, said.
The results for the week are announced at the Friday chapel services along with the classes which have collected the most money. Mrs. Ebanks also provides the students with a running tally for the week, the quarter and the year, for both the elementary and secondary school students.
She tracks the class totals with a bar graph. Mrs. Ebanks refers to the bars as towers when she displays the graph for the younger students.
‘They can see who’s got the tallest tower,’ she said.
Sometimes the students choose where to send the money, although every month US$25 each is earmarked to support a child in Uganda and the Philippines.
The students also take note of world events and show their concern through giving.
‘They sent US$3,000 in total to tsunami victims,’ Mrs. Ebanks explained, adding that she was especially touched since that event happened so soon after Hurricane Ivan.
Despite the devastation in Cayman from the hurricane, the students turned their attention to a country even worse hit and also chose to send money to Grenada through the Church of God there.
Another natural disaster in August last year moved the children to give.
‘After Katrina hit, there was so much sensitivity here about the victims. The students collected US$1,190 for them.’
The money was sent to the Samaritan’s Purse organisation, run by the Rev. Billy Graham’s son, Franklin.
‘Samaritan’s Purse was one of the first groups on site after Hurricane Katrina hit,’ Mrs. Ebanks explained.
Macey Scott, 11, who contributes a few dollars every week in her class, was one of the Triple C students inspired to help Katrina victims.
‘I’m from Louisiana. We watched Katrina on TV. My mom started crying. She showed us on TV the places we had been.
‘I think it’s important to give because the homes there were damaged. When Ivan hit, all the homes here were damaged and we didn’t get much help.
‘I remember how it felt when no one really helped us, how bad and sad it felt,’ she said.
Mrs. Ebanks keeps a folder for all the photos and letters she has received in relation to the money the school has sent over the years.
‘In 1987 we sent money to Guatemala to put a roof on a church. Guerrillas had tied up the pastors in the church and set it on fire, killing them,’ she explained sadly, but then cheered up as she showed off a photo sent after the roof was replaced.
In the picture, the entire congregation is posed, smiling, in front of the repaired building, a testament to the indomitability of the human spirit.
In 1990, attention was turned to Russia.
‘After the break-up of the Soviet Union the year before, a US organisation set a goal of sending 1 million bibles to Russian Christians and we just wanted to be a part of that,’ Mrs. Ebanks explained.
The school sent a bible to then-President Mikhail Gorbachev, at the suggestion of one young student, she explained.
‘One first grader said, ‘Why don’t we send a bible to the governor of Russia,” Mrs. Ebanks recounted with a smile.
Since 1996, the money collected during the school’s annual Christmas concert has been divided between the Kiwanis and Lions clubs. Mrs. Ebanks stressed the importance of giving locally, something which the Lions inspired her to do.
‘One Christmas, I saw some Lions delivering a basket to my elderly neighbour and I thought, ‘The Lions are out on Christmas morning delivering gifts to the elderly’, and that really touched my heart,’ she said.
Donations collected at the 2005 Christmas show netted CI$486 each for Kiwanis and the Lions, she added.
For the quarter ending January, funds are being targeted for missionaries in Haiti and Costa Rica.
Her folder, containing more than 20 years of correspondence, photos and details of donations, somehow survived the flood waters of Ivan, though Triple C School itself was badly damaged. The documents contained in the folder clearly have great meaning to Mrs. Ebanks.
‘This is a piece a history,’ she said, holding the folder close. ‘I’m not throwing this away.’
Mrs. Ebanks, who has been principal since 1978, is especially proud of the way the students have become givers, and eagerly recounts the generosity of children she has known.
‘One 10th grader last year gave CI$500 of her own money that she had saved for the summer.
‘Last year, Chelsea McField brought in a grocery bag full of coins. Because her interest level was so high, we asked her to be in charge of counting the money. She does it every Thursday and even fills out the deposit slip for the school’s bursar,’ she said.
Chelsea was involved with the school’s Key Club before taking on this extra job.
‘The Key Club tries to help people out; they’re about giving and contributing to the community,’ Chelsea explained.
This attitude exemplifies what Mrs. Ebanks is trying to achieve.
‘I’m really so proud of all these students,’ she said, adding that the desire to give is a behaviour that Mrs. Ebanks is committed to encourage.
‘We want to develop in students this sense of responsibility for other people, particularly those who have needs. I’m hoping that this will carry over to adulthood and they will feel compassion and concern for the community,’ she said.
The principal offers her students a very good example to follow, having sponsored a child in Myanmar for more than five years.
Even 11-year-old Macey is able to see the bigger picture and is not concerned whether she receives any credit for her good work.
‘That’s not a big deal to me. I think it’s a good thing to give and it gives you a good feeling,’ she said.