by Maria Ferraro
Clarissa Emerick didn’t think poor people in other countries needed her help; that changed when she saw pictures of Nicaragua. A visitor came to her seventh grade class and showed pictures of the people, and children of Nicaragua – many of them without homes or schools. Emerick said, “I wanted to help people in need because I think that it is very sad that they don’t have homes or schools.”
A seventh-grader at Our Saviour School (OSS), Emerick was asked along with her class to raise their hand if they wanted to help. Almost every hand went up. This year, the money they raise will go toward building homes for the people of Nicaragua. Through the “Joy program,” each student in the seventh and eighth grade who wants to join is given $20 by their teacher and charged to grow the money. Last year, they raised enough money to build a school.
Many in Nicaragua live in cardboard houses. Through the money raised by the classes, metal homes will be built on concrete slabs. Emerick described the current homes many Nicaraguans live in, saying, “They use twigs off of trees and big palm branches and scrap pieces of metal they would find and things off the road.” When Emerick’s friend saw pictures of the homes, she teared up and said, “I feel special that I have the opportunity to live in the house I have.” Seeing this motivated the girls to raise money. Emerick said, “Me and my friend are really strong into it, because we see how awful it is.”
Some in the class make and sell keychains, bracelets or rings. Emerick and her friend decided to make and sell cookies. With the $20 they were each given, they bought flour, sugar, butter, chocolate chips, cinnamon, nuts, powdered sugar and the remaining ingredients required to make a wide variety of cookies. They gathered recipes from Pinterest, Google and cookbooks, and divided the shopping.
There were obstacles to overcome, like the inconvenience of Emerick and her friend baking in their own separate kitchens, fitting all the ingredients into refrigerators, and the fear that not many people would buy cookies. Emerick said, “I was nervous whenever we were making things.” The day after her friend’s mom posted the cookies on Facebook, the first order came in. Emerick laughed, “Then all the sudden we got so many orders and my friend, was like, ‘See, what did I tell you?’” They have raised $300 so far. Emerick’s dad collects cookie orders at his work and brings them home. Emerick adds these orders to the Google Doc, where she and her friend put and keep track of orders. Some have opted to just donate to the girls.
Emerick does swimming, track, and takes piano lessons in addition to school and homework. Now on weekends, she and her friend bake cookies while on Facetime with each other. “I feel like that’s the only time I have free time,” Emerick added. The different cookies they make include chocolate chip, macadamia nut, butterscotch, plain sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, white chocolate chip and milk chocolate, among others.
In fourth grade, Emerick first saw the needs of individuals in other countries when her teacher told the class about young children who could barely eat enough to survive. Emerick distinctly remembers the story of a young boy who only got a few meals a week. His baby brother died of starvation. Emerick said, “It makes me so sad. I feel like I’m very fortunate for the things I have, and those people are lucky even if they eat even once per day.” Emerick believes it is important for people to see how other people in the world live. She added that Americans “need to think about how much they have, because they have so much compared to those people.”
Despite the work and obstacles, Emerick said seeing the pictures of the children’s smiling faces when they get to go to school for the first time makes it worth it. She laughed, “Meanwhile in America, kids hate going to school.” Their joy brings Emerick joy. She added, “Help those in need because you are so fortunate for all that you have.”