After reading about suffering in Nepal, fifth grade students at Catholic East Elementary School, Milwaukee, created a plan to help students in Nepal through the nonprofit organization HANDS in Nepal.

Kelly Ibarra, back left, fifth grade English and language arts teacher at Catholic East Elementary School, Milwaukee, poses with her students and Yvonne Lewandowski, back far right. The class, with the help of Ibarra and Lewandowski, raised $500 through bake sales to send to earthquake victims in Nepal. (Submitted photo courtesy Kelly Ibarra)Kelly Ibarra, fifth grade English and language arts teacher, had her students read several nonfiction pieces about Nepal, including information on social injustices and the April 2015 earthquake.

After reading those pieces, Ibarra said her students were enthusiastic about helping the Nepalese.

“The fifth graders were shouting out ideas,” Ibarra said. “They were so excited about it.”

The students came up with the idea to have a bake sale to raise money. The first sale, which took place the first Friday of October, raised about $100 dollars. At that point, the mother of one student helped to get the project moving.
Yvonne Lewandowski, mother of Eva-Marie, recalled her daughter coming home from school and discussing the situation in Nepal.

“She was very concerned about what happened in Nepal,” Lewandowski said. “Eva was set on wanting to know more, so I told her if you want to learn more, you go to the website and look it up.”

Lewandowski, who works in the nonprofit sector, aided her daughter with the big questions such as what the money will be raised for and what is a good goal to set.

“The children really took everything and owned it and developed something,” Lewandowski said of the students’ work with the project.

A representative of HANDS in Nepal, after communicating with Lewandowski, discussed the need for books since many of their school supplies were lost in the 2015 earthquake. The books would go to a village school in Phulkharka, in central Nepal.

“They needed thousands of dollars of new school stuff,” Lewandowski said. “I think that is what intrigued the children most. They thought this was something really important to do.”

The second bake sale was held the first Friday of November with the theme “Bake for Books.”

“Now they had something very tangible in their minds that they were raising money for,” Ibarra said. Students raised a little over $500 from three bake sales. Along with the money raised, students are finishing a book to send with their donation.

“I would say Eva-Marie has been integral in leading the class in terms of creating this book,” Ibarra said of the project.

Eva-Marie, with the help of her classmates, worked on taking pictures and writing about their class to share with the students in Nepal.

“Eva had taken it upon herself,” Lewandowski said of her daughter’s leadership. “She wanted to create a story, a real story.”

Lewandowski and Ibarra stressed the support of the Catholic East community, including Catholic East’s principal, Ryan Krienke, and the fifth grade parents.

“The support that was shown was very vital to the success of this,” Lewandowski said. “It’s really easy for teachers and for the staff and principal to say we have so much going on, but they didn’t.”

As a parent, Ibarra said, “You could be easily annoyed by three bake sales in a row, but all the fifth grade parents were so supportive of this.”

Lewandowski could not be prouder of her daughter and the fifth grade class.

“They worked together, as a class, in determining how they were going to raise the money,” Lewandowski said. “They put faith in their teacher, Mrs. Ibarra, that she would guide them, and in their principal, Mr. Krienke, their families, and the Catholic East community, that they would support them in their mission.”

Of the fifth grade class’s work with HANDS in Nepal, Lewandowski said, “It makes me so proud, but it also reinforces that this is exactly why I put (my children) in Catholic school.”