A LESSON IN COMPASSION

When Eleanor Porter learned from a speaker in her class that children in Afghanistan were being allowed to return to school but didn’t have school supplies, it weighed on the veteran teacher’s heart.

But she also saw an opportunity to teach her Blaney Elementary School fifth-graders a lesson about compassion.

Porter and her social studies class started a project that would bring the whole school together to collect pencils, crayons, notebook paper and other supplies that are being sent today to children in the war-torn country.

“It’s those real-life situations that a child will remember,” she said.

“They might not remember what was in the textbook, but they’ll remember gathering school supplies for the children of Afghanistan.”

Porter’s class started the project after Maj. Greg Cornell – father of one the students, Rachel – spoke to the class on Veteran’s Day.

Cornell was on a two-week leave from Afghanistan, where part of his mission is rebuilding schools. He told students that children were being allowed to return to school now that a new government was in place. Even girls, who previously had not been allowed to attend, would be welcome. But he said most of the children didn’t have the school supplies they needed.

“When he told us about the children that was, like, really sad, because education is, like, really important,” said 10-year-old Katherine Collins.

Porter discussed with her class what they could do to help. “We decided it would be a really good thing to do if we could provide them with school supplies.”

She said her students are a caring bunch, so the plight of the children in Afghanistan struck a chord.

“The girls, especially, were just outraged that the girls had not been able to go to school,” Porter said. “Imagine that.”

Katherine said she was glad to hear that girls were now being allowed to attend school.

“I thought that was cruel, because girls should have their own rights just like men,” she said. . . .

Class member Rebeckah Raines, 10, said she would be happy at first if she couldn’t go to school because she’d get a break. “But I would get bored,” she said. “I’d feel depressed.”

Cornell’s daughter, Rachel, 10, said it was “not fair” for the girls to have to stay home and cook and help with the chores while the boys received an education.

“In fifth grade, I think, one of the big things is fairness,” Porter said. “You have to be fair with them. Fairness means everybody ought to be able to go to school,” adding that all schoolchildren should have the supplies they need.

So when Porter approached the school principal about the project, it was suggested that the whole school get involved. Porter went on the school’s morning program to ask for help, and “Operation We Share” was born. Blaney’s motto is “We Care, We Share, We Dare.”

Since the beginning of December, the school has collected more than a dozen boxes of supplies, with each grade assigned to a different item. With a last-minute rush, Porter was expecting to send as many as 18 boxes today to Cornell, who will distribute them to Afghan children.

Rachel said her dad’s distribution of the supplies will help the children know “that they can trust the United States Army.”

“I feel very good for the children that are going to be getting (the supplies),” she said. “And how excited (my dad) will be to be able to see their facial expressions.”

Porter said her goal was to help teach her class compassion. “I’m extremely proud of them,” she said.

Reach Rupon at (803) 771-8622 or krupon@thestate.com.Caption:

PHOTO: BW1. Students at Blaney Elementary School in Elgin are collecting school supplies for children in Afghanistan. The students learned of the problem when the father of a student, Maj. Greg Cornell, visited the class on Veterans Day. TIM DOMINICK/THE STATE

2. Now that the new government is in place, Afghan children have returned to school. PHOTOGRAPH BY MAJ. GREG CORNELLMemo: KERSHAW NEIGHBORS

December 16, 2004  State (published as The State)  
Columbia, South Carolina
Page 68

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