Two ongoing fundraising projects at a Bartlett elementary school and an Elgin church will help feed 300 schoolchildren in Ghana and support an orphanage in the West African nation.
Fifth-graders at Sycamore Trails Elementary School in Bartlett are selling pouches of dried feed corn and rice to use as heating pads, raising money to provide lunches for their pen pals at a Ghanaian school.
"Our goal is to be able to raise funds to pay for a trimester worth of lunches for the school," said James Reed, a fifth-grade gifted program teacher spearheading the project.
Reed, 40, of Elgin, also is leading the effort to fund an orphanage built through his charity -- Two Pennies Ministry.
Schools in Ghana, and many parts of Africa and Asia, typically do not provide lunch for students.
It costs about 25 cents to feed one Ghanaian student lunch for a day, Reed said.
"Here, at our school, it's over $2," Reed said. "(Students) just couldn't believe it. They started to calculate what you get for a quarter. It started a discussion about how much do we really have."
Reed said students have been giving up their lunch breaks for more than two weeks to clean the corn and fill up the pouches. The bags are later sewn shut by members of First Baptist Church in Elgin.
"The kids love it," Reed said. "My classroom looks like some sort of a feed barn by the end of the day."
He added that students have been learning and applying business and mathematics principles through the exercise: making advertising posters, profit analysis sheets, tally charts and sales projections to keep up with demand.
Students also came up with the pricing -- the quarter-pound mini rice pouches go for $3, while 1-pound and 3-pound corn pouches sell for $7 and $10, respectively. The rice pouches heat up in 40 seconds while the corn pouches take about three minutes in the microwave.
"It smells like cornbread when you take them out of a microwave," Reed said.
Though it started with Reed's class, other fifth-graders have joined in. The goal is to raise $4,000 through students' efforts, and through a six-week Two Pennies Challenge at First Baptist Church. The money will be wired to Ghana, Reed said.
Reed has been doing volunteer work in Ghana for a few years, working with schools in the Cape Coast region, and has partnered with several area churches. Last year, his students and members of the First Baptist Church sent more than 7,000 books and six computers to the school in Ghana.
On March 20, Reed will be leading a group of volunteers, including a few Judson University faculty members, to provide reading instruction for teachers and students at that school. They will train the Ghanaian teachers on how to use storybooks and computers in their classrooms.
"We're going to be working with these teachers on how to teach reading comprehension through reading engagement," Reed said. "We sent them thousands and thousands of books ... and they don't know how that fits into the overall puzzle of how you educate kids."
Meanwhile, Reed's ministry, with the help of First Baptist Church members, provided $115,000 in funding to build the orphanage in the Cape Coast region for a Ghanaian couple taking care of 13 orphaned children. The five-room house was completed in early January and the children are now moved in. It includes a separate dormitory for boys and girls, a study room, a waiting room, separate boys and girls bathrooms, and space to house more children. The orphanage can house up to 16 children, Reed said.
"That's been amazing how that all came together for the orphanage to be built," said Nancy Farquhar, 59, of Elgin, a First Baptist Church member who will be accompanying Reed on the charity's fifth mission to Ghana. "I'm not a trained educator, though I've home-schooled my kids for 19 years. I will be (there) in some sort of a support role."
Farquhar, a stay-at-home mother of eight adoptive children and foster parent to more than 30 children over two decades, said she is looking forward to building a relationship with the orphans.
Reed said the idea is not only to provide a roof, but also to give these orphans "a real home, that has real advantages, education, excellent care."
Some members of the Elgin church will support individual orphans similar to sponsorship programs run by global charities, such as World Vision and Compassion International. "Every kid at that orphanage will have a sponsor," Reed said.
"We will help supplement their education, textbooks, school uniforms, some of the school and clothing expenses they have," Reed said. "We wanted to be able to have a depth of relationship. It's not just sending them money. Our goal is to be more Christ-like. How do we go there and make a difference in their lives? And that means taking care of them, getting to know them as individuals."
Sponsors will be able to get progress reports on their charges and connect with the orphans through future missions.
"We are going to have seven people who are going to sit down and play catch with these kids, reading stories and we'll have that on a regular basis," Reed said. "Our desire is the continuation of that story."