May 24th, 2001
History Lesson at US School Leads to Large Net Donation
By Brian Calvert, The Cambodia Daily

Students at the Denn John Middle School in Orlando, in the US
state of Florida, and their teacher, Lauren Steiert, count money
they collected for the Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign.

What began as a middle school lesson on World War II for students in the US state of Florida ended in a coin-collecting campaign that may have saved the lives of more than 200 rural Cambodians. Students at the Denn John Middle School in Orlando, Florida, were supposed to be studying the effects of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's policies and the Holocaust that killed more than 6 million Jews, explained middle school teacher Lauren Steiert in a recent e-mail to the Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign. But one of the students who was searching the Internet for material about refugees came across the struggles of Cambodians still in refugee camps. The discovery led to the decision by the class to move history into the present, Steiert explained. Her students decided to work together to scrape up as many pennies the lowest denomination of money in the US as possible and send them to the Campaign, she said. The students collected, counted, and rolled pennies to purchase life-saving mosquito nets for Cambodians to protect them from malaria, she said. The students looked everywhere: friends, family, teachers, and other classes from other schools all pitched in all the change they could, she said. As a result, the students saved almost $370 and saved 221 lives, she said. Each $5 net offers protection to an average of three people. The money was forwarded to the Campaign this week, and will go toward the purchase of mosquito nets. The nets, distributed by the government's National Malaria Center, protect families from malaria-carrying mosquitoes, which bite at night. And not only did the project end up helping Cambodians, it helped students in the US become more involved in school. Parents reported more students doing homework, while the number of absentees for the month of May plummeted. Fewer conflicts within the schools were reported, Steiert said. And the students learned more about the world around them, she said. In fact, I offered to give them a pizza party, and one little boy said, Wouldn't it be better to give the pizza money to the Cambodians? They need it more than we do.'