Yemen may be nearly 8,000 miles away from Eldora, but that doesn’t mean it’s too far for locals to make a difference.
Students at South Hardin High School learned about the famine and civil conflict happening a world away in their Current Events class – taught by Geoff Buchanan. Many wondered if there was anything they could do. That’s when more than 20 students – in all grade levels – decided that they wanted to do something to help those in need on the other side of the globe.
“I think it’s because it’s something that we’ve never really heard of before because Yemen isn’t really publicized all that much with Syria so close and so much going on there. But, there is a lot of bad things going on there (Yemen),” said Ashley Heubner.
“It’s not something that is well known. We figured it would be good for us to help with something like that,” added Hanna Vander Wilt.
There are currently about 26 million people in Yemen with 14.4 million of them are food insecure, or don’t know if they will be eating that day. Vander Wilt said roughly one in five people are starving.
“That, to me, is what stuck out the most,” Heubner said. “I don’t think I’ve ever wondered when I was going to eat or if I was going to eat.”
Because of that, the students (in a group they are calling Students Against Yemeni Hunger) are planning fundraising events to send money to the World Food Programme, which provides emergency food assistance to three million people.
The group meets on their own time and, as separate committees, has decided on several different projects to raise money and awareness. They have set up a tip night at the Eldora Pizza Ranch, Dessert Night at a home basketball game, and donation jars in classrooms around the school.
“That is a very volatile part of the world and there are many people who probably would question why we would want to help people in that area of the world where we’re not very popular. I think, that’s one nice thing with these guys, they don’t look at politics. They just see people in need and want to help them,” said Buchanan.
But raising money isn’t the only thing they are looking to do.
“One of our goals in doing this is, yes we want to send money, but we also want to raise awareness of it,” Vander Wilt said. “If we were to put in the paper that we’re doing whatever fundraiser on this night, then more people would know and more people would come and then more people will find out why we’re doing it.”
While both girls said they don’t have a dollar amount of what they want to raise, they just want to help as many people as they can.
“If I can send somebody enough money to feed their family for a week, that’s something,” said Heubner. “Maybe that week leads to a month, to a year, to a lifetime.”
They are also learning basic skills like organization and leadership.
“I just think it’s more effective, it’s more impactful to the community if they see the kids interested in something that they normally wouldn’t be interested in,” Buchanan said.
The students have learned that even a small school in Iowa can make a difference and come together to help others in need.
“There’s always ways to help,” Heubner said.
“No matter how small it is, you’re still helping,” Vander Wilt added.