- Published on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 06:44
- Written by Traci Newell - Town Crier Staff Report
A supersize upgrade at a fast-food restaurant, a soda in a vending machine, a song on iTunes - one dollar to a local student translates into much more to a student in an impoverished nation.
This idea, which originated in a Los Altos High School classroom, has blossomed into a growing effort to have every high school student in the United States donate one dollar each year to assist those students.
One Dollar For Life began at Los Altos High last year when economics teacher Robert Freeman challenged his students to believe they are not as helpless as they feel.
"I challenged them to think, â€˜You are not as impotent as you want to make yourself out to be. You have a self-imposed impotence. You don't have to be cynical, you could be compassionate.'"
One Dollar For Life is a non-profit organization, founded to address third-world poverty by collecting one dollar from each of millions of U.S. high school students and channeling those funds into small-scale infrastructure projects in developing countries.
Freeman's mission was a success. Last year Los Altos High School launched the program and raised $2,400, more than $1 per student. The program spread last year to Gunn and St. Francis high schools locally and two schools in Bakersfield.
The program works with qualified non-governmental organizations in the developing world to fund and implement such projects as schools, water wells, irrigation systems, sanitary waste disposal, vaccinations and other simple, low-cost projects. These projects have the potential of dramatically improving the quality of life for millions of people.
This year the non-profit organization, armed with a new Web site geared to making it easy for schools throughout the nation to join the effort, is well on its way to doubling the money raised last year. Freeman said there are 20 schools in various stages of the fundraising effort for this academic school year.
Freeman and several local students, who promoted the campaign, delivered last year's proceeds to the village of Naro Moru in Kenya in April. The $9,000 was enough to construct a 25-by-25-foot classroom for the Kenyan students who had been attending classes in a horse barn. Freeman said the village was transformed by the addition, and many community members provided the labor for the projects.
"It is a moral imperative to support this," Freeman said. "We can mitigate so much suffering for so little. $9,000 goes so far out there."
Los Altos High's fundraiser, held in September this year, raised $2,682, averaging about $1.62 per student.
One Dollar For Life recently received two matching grants from private individuals, which will contribute toward building a women's health clinic in Nairobi, Kenya. Other projects in planning stages include a school in Mexico, three cows for an orphanage in Kenya, a high school in Nepal and a girls' school in Tanzania.
Freeman said the success of One Dollar For Life depends on getting the word spread to as many high schools as possible.
"It is just so simple and inherently good," he said. "Teens always say they want to do something to change the world – this is the easy way to do it."
For the program to be a success at a high school, Freeman said the school needs at least one dedicated teacher and one dedicated student. He said that once the word spreads about One Dollar For Life, the program will catch on at all high schools as an annual fundraiser.
"I really believe this is going to get to a point where this is going to be a brand name – everyone is going to do ODFL," Freeman said. "Students want to feel they are effective. They have this altruism and they want to believe this world can be better. This is a way to make a better world."
For more information, visit www.odfl.org