Class Inspires Students to Take Action and Save Lives

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (March 31, 2011) — Civics teachers at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Va., challenged eighth graders to research how they could "Take Action to Change Our World." The program not only satisfied the curriculum, it also motivated students to take action to save lives, one child at a time.

"The thing that I found during my research that inspired me the most is that 75 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 a day," said Christine McGrath, 13, Church of the Nativity parishioner in Burke, Va. "That is less than the cost of the two yogurts I eat every day."

Christine’s school project raised more than $5,600 toward Church of the Nativity’s Operation Starfish gift for the international relief and development organization Food For The Poor. The donation will provide children the opportunity to attend school, and construct critically needed shelter to relocate a family from either a tent city or a dilapidated shack in a garbage-filled swamp.

Christine McGrath with the Rev. Richard
Martin and Jim McDaniel.

"It makes me feel like I accomplished something, because my goal for the project was to raise enough money to build a house for $3,200, and I exceeded my goal," said Christine. "It just goes to show you that you can do anything if you set your mind to it."

Food For The Poor will build the housing unit with a latrine for $3,200 in the next phase of Church of the Nativity’s seventh village, in Chastenoye, Haiti. Food For The Poor homes are built with a strong, corrugated zinc roof, a solid poured-cement foundation, concrete-block walls, windows for ventilation, and a front door that can be locked. The remainder will award children scholarships to attend the Food For The Poor and Church of the Nativity sponsored schools in Merger and Prolonge, Haiti. In developing countries, the gift of schooling and the opportunity to learn how to read changes lives.

"After Christine surpassed her goal, it was one of the proudest moments of my life," said Tim McGrath, her father.

Christine’s parents said she was introduced to the desperate needs in Haiti through Operation Starfish at Church of the Nativity.

"We can learn from these young ones – they teach us how to become aware of the needs of others, how to develop compassion for the needy, and how to act on behalf of the poor," said the Rev. Richard Martin, Pastor at Church of the Nativity. "Awareness, compassion and action will truly make a difference in the lives of our Haitian sisters and brothers."

Morgan Cobban, 14, and Samantha Lek, 14, also were shaped by their involvement at Church of the Nativity. Their project raised money to help construct a home for a destitute family in Nativity Village in Chastenoye.

To fundraise, Morgan, Samantha and Christine spread awareness about their initiatives by walking door-to-door within their community, while spreading consciousness nationwide through social networking sites. Additionally they hosted bake sales, sold raffle tickets and Hope for Haiti wristbands. Morgan’s sisters in California supported the cause by hanging posters in their offices and selling wristbands to coworkers.

"What the girls accomplished is the reason I teach," said Jane Gordon, the girls’ Civics teacher, who has taught for 10 years. "Their persistent positive belief that they can truly make a difference in the world made their results possible. Not only have they helped numerous families in Haiti, but they have also inspired their friends, families and fellow students that such change is actually possible. They give us great hope that the future will be bright."

Morgan Cobban and Samantha Lek with the Rev. Richard Martin and Jim McDaniel.

"I am learning through my work as a volunteer that giving back to the world is a rewarding and satisfying experience," said Morgan. "Also, it is important to keep in mind that no matter how difficult something may seem, even when we encounter a road block, it is imperative to persevere because I know that somewhere, someone will benefit from my actions, no matter how small they may seem."

"We are so proud of the work Morgan has done with this project," said Rick Cobban, Morgan’s father. "The girls have been working tirelessly for weeks putting a great deal of time and effort into seeing this through. They completely understand that every little bit helps and they are motivated by knowing they can make a difference."

For more than 20 years, Martin – the originator of Operation Starfish® – has encouraged families to engage fully in the sacrificial spirit of Lent by giving parishioners the opportunity for spiritual reflection and the ability to make daily sacrifices to benefit those who are suffering. The program encourages individuals to deposit 50 cents or more each day to help the poor. At the end of Lent, when all donations are collected, combined and counted – housing, education and medical programs for the destitute will be funded through Food For The Poor. Food For The Poor’s 25-year tenure in Haiti aided the nonprofit’s response to the devastating January 2010 earthquake and most recently the spread of cholera.

"I am so grateful that I had the pleasure of helping out Food For The Poor by volunteering to help the Haitian people," said Samantha. "Volunteering made me feel accomplished, and it was a very rewarding experience to help others.”"

The project exhibits will be on display April 14 at the school’s Fourth Annual Lake Braddock Take Action Festival from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Community members are welcome to attend. Martin will present the parish’s donation to Food For The Poor in May 2011.

"I wasn’t surprised that Christine wanted to help those with less; she often looks for ways to help others," said Beth McGrath, her mother. "After Christine made her first few hundred dollars from the bake sale, she became even more determined."

"It is important to take action because trying to help the less fortunate is the right thing to do," said Christine.

To involve your church or school in Food For The Poor’s mission call 1-877-654-2960, ext. 6988 or e-mail

Food For The Poor, the third-largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian agency provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.

For more information, please visit

Jennifer Leigh Oates
Food For The Poor
Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6054