Vinland students’ reach goes global

These boxes brim with the items Kristin Mann’s students brought in to send to children in India. They’ve been collecting the items since Nov. 12. - Tara Lemm/Staff photo
These boxes brim with the items Kristin Mann’s students brought in to send to children in India. They’ve been collecting the items since Nov. 12.
— image credit: Tara Lemm/Staff photo

POULSBO — A picture of a school house in Rajasthan India shows its library is just three small, bench-sized shelves of books.

A few more pictures reveal there are no classrooms, or desks. Students sit on mats in an open-air setting. There are a few antique computers, but they haven’t been used yet, as there were recently donated.

Vinland Elementary combined third and fourth grade teacher, Kristin Mann, took these pictures while visiting India in July. Mann, who likes to travel, wanted to visit somewhere that’s “drastically” different than the United States.

Therefore, she and her husband selected India.

“There’s such a difference in the way we live. It made us think about the things we’re so fortunate to have,” Mann said, “yet the people are so happy and they have so little it made us think about what’s really necessary and what isn’t.”

Mann learned the children who attend the school she snapped a few photos of leave at noon because they have other responsibilities to take care of. She learned a lot of kids in India don’t even go to school because they must stay home to help their parents.

She said the school’s drinking water comes from a large cistern, and the bathroom is the squat system — there’s a hole in a closet and it’s the students’ responsibility to keep it clean.

Only a few posters decorate the walls, nothing like the displays seen in classrooms throughout the North Kitsap School District.

“It’s pretty bare bones there,” Mann said. “It was a trip of a lifetime. When we came back we knew we’d do something to help.”

Mann is helping, but she wanted to help in a way that involved the 24 students in her class at Vinland.

Mann’s class has been studying India, on and off, since September. They’ve learned about animals, the climate and a few components of the culture.

Once she introduced her students to life in India, she asked them if they’d like to help by sending some treats, clothes, supplies and a little cash so items can be purchased in India, as it’s less expensive to buy them there. The students replied with a resounding “Yes.”

Just ask them.

“I want to help the kids in India because I saw a picture of their school and they don’t have many computers and books and their library is so small,” said fourth-grader James Robson, 9, adding he would be sad if his school’s library was like the library in the picture. “I think it’s awesome. We might have a giant library here and if I donate a bunch of books then the kids in India will be able to read a bunch of books.”

Mann and the students brainstormed what they’d like to send, and the list is exhaustive — socks, hats, mittens, toothbrushes and school supplies; glue sticks, crayons, notebooks, solar calculators and pencils. The students even took the initiative and made posters which proclaim, “Please help us. We are collecting new school supplies ... .” and hung them around the school so others might donate.

On Nov. 12 Mann’s class began collecting the token items, and continued to do so through Nov. 26. There’s also a large plastic piggy bank for cash collections that’s about one-third full.

Mann shared a heartwarming story about a boy in the class who brought in all his change from home and put it in the India-collection piggy bank.

That boy is third-grader Nate Blanchard, 8. He’s not sure if he donated $32 or $23 dollars to the bank, but he does know he already has plenty.

“I already have a lot and I think some kids should have some because they barely have any,” Nate said. “I think it’s pretty cool because it’s your money and you’re helping other people with it so they can have some things and have some food.”

The supplies will be sent to the director of the group Mann and her husband toured India with, and the shipping is being donated by the United Parcel Service.

Both Nate and James would like to visit India one day. Nate would like to go to India because he’s learned so much about the country and he’d like to see all the “cool animals.” James hopes to visit so he can see how their donations helped.

“I think I want to go to India one day because then I could see how the items that we donated affected the kids in India,” James said.

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