Pessimism is easier than making a difference

At the first Students for Humanity meeting, the social studies center was nearly filled up with students from all four grades. It was an amazing feeling – walking in to find at least 50 other students eagerly awaiting information as to what they could do to help raise awareness about the situation in Uganda. Unfortunately, at the next meeting, the number of students had dwindled a bit, the crowd seeming a little less enthusiastic. At the second meeting, people paid less attention. There was more idle chitchat, and very few people even seem genuinely interested in the cause anymore.

Kerr has been signed up with many other schools along the southeast region in the Schools for Schools competition hosted by Invisible Children – a non-profit organization that raises awareness about the conflicts in Uganda. The competition itself was created to pit schools in the North American region against each other to raise money to send to Ugandan schools for better schools. The prize? A trip to Uganda to meet the teachers and students whose lives you’ve helped.

There were ways in which we would be able to send a representative from our school if we won. The first and most obvious way was raising the most money. But because we only became aware of the competition in early November and didn’t take action until the middle of the month, we were a little behind schools that had already racked up money in five digit numbers. The second way was just raising over $20,000 in general. The third way was to create a three- to five-minute video on the most creative fundraiser. Because many students were already busy with their PAKS (or procrastinating on them), and the upperclassmen themselves were swamped with college applications and scholarships, the creative fundraiser video was out of the question. In fact, our best bet was raising over $20,000 – a goal which, despite what other people might think, was entirely possible.

But it wasn’t just the prize of going to Uganda, or even the pride of winning. Invisible Children raised awareness about the conflicts in Uganda when they held an assembly in our school. Though they intrigued us with the competition, their goal was very clear – it was simply about helping out and making a difference. To prove their point, one of their videos showed a school that participated in the previous competition that was in need of economic help themselves, but the students were aware that they had it much better than those in Uganda, so they held fundraisers to help out.

From the day we sat down for the assembly from Invisible Children to the dwindling days left in the Schools for Schools competition, there was more than enough time to raise a little more than $20,000. Considering that Kerr has a population of a little more than 800 students and too many staff members to count, if each student donated a minimum $25, we would have more than enough to reach the goal. However, as I presented this idea, all I got in response was, “Nobody’s going to donate $25 all at once. Nobody has that much money on them anyway.” While that may be true, I never said it had to be $25 all at once. From the start of the competition, you could have donated whatever change you had on you, or even sent in a dollar a day. But again, all I received was a negative response.

Maybe the students weren’t aware of the fact that it wasn’t about earning the most money – that there were other ways to win a trip to Uganda. Or, maybe it was because our school in general just simply doesn’t have enough money to go around. With homecoming game and dance tickets going on sale at the same time as the fundraiser for Uganda, it was as if the students thought they could only choose one or the other: use $10-13 for two nights of fun, or change the lives of thousands of teens. Either way, the pessimism or the lack of interest spread faster than the optimism.

I still believe we can donate. Yes, it would be hard to raise the money on short notice; but even if we didn’t reach that goal, we could still raise enough to make a difference. And this is what it’s all about. Maybe we won’t win the competition or be one of the schools to send a representative to Uganda. But we need to remember that this isn’t about winning some competition. It’s about helping those who are in greater need than we are. Not all of us are made of money, but that doesn’t mean we are unable to help. Even a dollar can make a difference.

End the pessimism and make an effort. If you’d like to donate, then contact either Mr. Levine from the Social Studies Center, Sara Elmiaari, or Nneka Waturuocha for more information, or you can do so online at