April 30, 2001
Local effort has global objective: Quincy students raise money for education in Nepal
By SAMUEL J. SCOTT
Epitomizing the adage "think globally and act locally," Broad Meadows Middle School students cleaned the yard in front of the Thomas Crane Public Library on Saturday morning to raise money for improved education for children in Nepal.
The Quincy students - including some in high school and college who wanted to volunteer - removed cigarette butts, soda cans and other trash from the grass and raked leaves for three hours.
They collected pledges for their labor and will give the money to the United States Agency for International Development.
The agency will give the money as scholarships to poor young people, particularly girls, in Nepal. The students said 78 percent of the girls in Nepal are illiterate.
Thirty-one schools in 14 states took part in Saturday's event, with the goal of raising $50,000 for this year's "Operation Day's Work" - a three-year-old nationwide student movement that targets a particular global human rights issue through one day of local work each year.
Every year, a national convention of participating schools chooses a specific area of concern. In the last two years, the movement aided human rights groups in El Salvador and Haiti.
Before eating a pizza lunch donated by Club 58, students showed a video to guests, telling the story of the movement of which their annual workday was a part.
It began with Iqbal Masih, a frail, 10-year-old child from Pakistan who escaped from slavery in workshops.
In 1994 the Reebok Human Rights Foundation brought him to Boston to give him an award for speaking against child slavery in his country.
The clothing manufacturer wanted to show him how schools operated in the United States.
Reebok chose Broad Meadows because it had a human-rights curriculum. Seventh-graders there study the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Five months after his talk at the school, Masih was shot and killed while riding a bicycle in front of his grandmother's house in Pakistan.
Broad Meadows students then formed the Kids' Campaign Against Child Labor.
"If you were a victim of child labor, wouldn't you want someone else to help?" asked Drilon Loxha, a 12-year-old Broad Meadows student.
They called local carpet retailers to see if their products were made by child labor. Most of the companies either did not know or laughed at the concern, students said.
Such passion, though, attracted the attention of the USAID.
The agency contacted the school to ask if its students would be interested in joining Operation Day's Work.
"Everyone here really, really, truly wants to help make their lives a little better," said Meaghan Luce, a 14-year-old at Quincy High, referring to the illiterate girls in Nepal.
Every year delegates from the 31 schools choose one human rights issue to address at a national conference.
"They're taking his dream of educating all children and making it a reality," said Evelyn McInnes, 15, a student at Lexington Christian Academy and former Broad Meadows student.
McInnes wrote a letter to the library to ask for its help, which resulted in Saturday's project.
"We're very much a part of the community. This is definitely a community project so we're happy to be involved. We believe in the issue," said librarian Fran Ryan.
After completing the cleanup, Broad Meadows students dedicated a "Peace Garden" to Masih in purple pansies planted in a semicircle on the Washington Street side of the library.
Later, a plaque commemorating the Pakistani child will be placed in the garden.
On May 10, two sisters, Elizabeth Bloomer, a sophomore at Archbishop Williams High School, and Laura Bloomer, a sixth-grader at Broad Meadows, will speak at a congressional roundtable in Washington, D.C., on ending child labor.
The library will stock books on child slavery issues, and Ryan said she hopes the peace garden will alert patrons to the activities of the students, and to the history of their actions.
"There are all kinds of things that need to be done, and I'm glad you guys are finding them," Adams told the students after the video. "Next year I would like this library to be filled with patrons who can listen to Iqbal's story."
Copyright 2001 The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Massachusetts)