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Silence to help the hungry

Kids take Vow of Silence, raise $1,760

Posted: March 25, 2008 1:44 a.m.
Updated: May 26, 2008 5:01 a.m.
 
For Newhall Elementary School's Student Council, silence can speak louder than words.

The 23 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders took a vow of silence for 24 hours earlier this month to raise awareness for the less fortunate children around the world and to raise funds for a local cause.

The Vow of Silence project, a first for the Newhall school, began after the students wanted to find a way to give back.

After drawing inspiration from Free the Children, an international organization that offers aid to children through education and plans the Vow of Silence annually on March 1, the Newhall Student Council decided to begin their vow on the afternoon of Feb. 29, according to Sarah Johnson, assistant principal of Newhall Elementary School.

The kids then chronicled their plan by posting an online video on QuantumShift, a Web site that encourages positive action.

But before anyone could go quiet, the 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds collected pledges from friends, family members and school officials to raise money for the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry.

For every hour they were silent, supporters would donate money to their fundraiser.

With the planning done, the 23 students began their vows.

For 24 hours, the youngsters remained quiet, using everything from whiteboards and hand symbols to communicate with others.

The next day, Johnson said the students returned to school to reflect on their 24 hours of silence.

What makes this project different from basic volunteering is that the students were forced to reflect on their experience, according to Johnson.

"They are learning from the service being provided," she said, adding kids wrote essays about their experience.

Plus, the opportunity served as a way for the kids to be "acting globally, but thinking locally," as Johnson said.

Jessica Lynn, 11, was one of the students who participated in the vow.

"It was really difficult to keep silent because I'm so used to talking," she said.

To keep track of her emotions and thoughts, Lynn maintained a journal.

"I wrote how I was feeling at the moment," she said.

After her vow ended, Lynn was able to reflect on her own experience and its relation to the less fortunate children around the world.

"I learned from the Vow of Silence that you should help the kids who don't have the privilege to be able to express themselves and talk," she said.

Along with their own personal growth, the children achieved another goal.

Their silence allowed them to raise $1,760 for the Food Pantry, which they presented to the organization's executive director on Wednesday.

Belinda Crawford, executive director of the SCV Food Pantry, accepted the check from the Student Council during the morning assembly at the school.

"It was unbelievable," Crawford said on Thursday. "I was very surprised and pleased that they had a heart to help others in their community."

As for a group of students staying silent for 24 hours, Crawford said, "I could not take a vow of silence for 24 hours. That was a very difficult undertaking for them."

Nevertheless, she recognizes the benefits of the Vow of Silence, as it gives a way to reflect on the issue of abused and neglected children around the world.

Zina Dixon, adviser for the student council at fourth grade teacher at Newhall Elementary School, is proud of the students who took part in the vow.

She said the students were able to understand that making a difference is not an easy task.

"It takes a lot of dedication," she said.

Regardless, Dixon recognizes how a group of elementary schools were able to accomplish 24 hours of silence.

"They were able to do something so big and they were able to bring it down to their size and still make a difference," she said.

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