The money was raised by 15 students at the Gulfport Montessori Elementary School who worked together to paint brightly-colored chairs that were sold at a silent auction in mid May. The sale of the chairs to school staff and parents raised $270; another $30 was donated by losing bidders, Rochrock said.
“They were really proud,” Rochrock said of the children, who range in age from 6 to 8. “They were very generous. No one wanted to keep the money. From the get-go it was for the kids in Panama.”
The check was mailed with letters from the students to preschoolers at the Little School for Peace in the Darien Gap rainforest region along the border between Panama and Colombia. It was sent via a group called Bridges Across Borders that works in several countries, including Panama.
“One of our first projects [in Darien Gap] was to get a preschool started where 3 to 5 year olds can be safe and nurtured,” the Bridges Across Borders website says. “The children are assured a nutritious drink and snack each day …”
The Gulfport children worked in teams of two or three over a period of two weeks painting the chairs with themes they chose themselves. Themes included gardens, outer space, the rain forest, jungle and rainbows. One child was so smitten by a class project raising monarch butterflies that he illustrated a chair with various the stages in the monarch’s development.
The kids sanded and primed the chairs – which were donated, purchased at yard sales or retrieved from the trash – and painted the background color before applying a pattern they had previously developed on paper, Rochrock said.