It started with the desire of one Lasallian student to make a difference in the lives of children all around the world, and it blossomed into a multi-school effort to fight malaria.
Meghan Gallagher attended the April 2010 Lasallian Convocation on the Rights of the Child at the United Nations as a junior at Justin-Siena High School in Napa, CA with four classmates. They returned with a passion to help students around the world.
Meghan took the message to heart when speakers asked the students what they were going to do when they returned home to make the most of their experience. “I really felt inspired to do something together with the other Lasallian schools after getting to know so many students from across the United States,” she said. “I found that we each shared common ground in supporting our twin schools so it was only fitting to send the mosquito nets there.”
Her interest in malaria relief stemmed from her eighth grade research paper. A large exhibit on the disease that she saw during the United Nations trip pushed her to take the issue back to her school community.
Meghan worked with students she met during the U.N. trip, who brought the malaria net plan to their schools. Along with presenting the idea at her school with her classmates, she also traveled to La Salle High School in Yakima, WA to promote the project. Additionally, she presented the idea at the San Francisco District’s Lasallian Student Leaders Conference in July 2010, and followed up with school presidents and principals in the fall. “It was really remarkable how the other Lasallian schools were so willing and enthusiastic to get involved and help our fellow Lasallian schools in need,” she said. “It was a true showing of the strength of the Lasallian family and the impact we can have when we mobilize to support a common charity.”
In all, eight schools signed on: Christian Brothers High School, Sacramento, CA; Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, San Francisco, CA; La Salle High School, Pasadena, CA; La Salle High School, Yakima, WA; De La Salle High School, Concord, CA; St. Michael’s High School, Santa Fe, NM; Justin-Siena High School, Napa, CA; and San Miguel High School, Tucson, AZ. In lieu of monetary support, San Miguel students wrote prayers that were published weekly for their collaborative success and for those who struggle with malaria.
Andrew Hodges, campus ministry director at Justin-Siena, said the goal of the Change for Our World Drive was not only to collect money, but to educate students about a social justice issue and show them how they could help end the disease if they followed the mission of “Together and By Association.”
“I have never witnessed a more successful student-centered charity drive in my 20 years in Catholic Education,” said Mr. Hodges. “I am so impressed by the students and especially the mission-driven vision of Meghan Gallagher.”
This fundraising program aimed to collect ‘spare change’ from students during Lent. The schools raised nearly $21,000, which will buy approximately 3,000 nets for students in Lasallian schools in Africa that are twinned with Lasallian schools in the U.S. and Toronto.
The mosquito nets are badly needed at Rongai Agricultural and Technical Secondary School in Rongai, Kenya. Principal Bro. Michael Kimotho said, “We appreciate your concern and care about our students. In a rainy season we go through some problems with mosquitoes. This enquiry about the nets has come at the right time.”
“Please extend my special gratitude for the students who have initiated the project,” said Bro. Awate Fiseha, principal of St. Joseph Secondary School in Keren, Eritrea, another school that will receive nets.
Seeing the success makes Meghan happy the project worked. “It is really rewarding to see an idea come to life and to see so many other people get involved,” she said. “I am so grateful to all the other schools and students who without them this wouldn’t be possible.”
Meghan is not stopping with this fundraiser. She is currently working on making it an annual event to raise money and awareness for various needs within all District schools. She is presenting this year’s project and her hopes for future projects at this month’s Lasallian Student Leaders Conference at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, CA.
The project not only tackles a dangerous disease, it also strengthens the bond between twin schools. “We hope this is the foundation for a stronger and closer relationship in the future,” said Mr. Hodges.