A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sweet Story

Young people today are better than we were.
Case in point: Mikaela Bernhardt, Emma Gadberry and Jane Collins, all students at Albany High.
Mikaela and Emma are juniors; Jane is a freshman. Every weekend they and their friends set up a card table on Fourth Street in Berkeley and sell cookies, cupcakes and other baked goods they made themselves.
But they aren't raising money for a pizza party or to go to an away football game, which is what I would have been doing when I was their age.
They're members of the Albany High School chapter of BuildOn, an international organization that enlists teenagers like them to build elementary schools in developing countries. BuildOn volunteers have constructed more than 100 schools worldwide, and this summer the Albany High students are going to build an elementary school in an impoverished village in Nicaragua.
"Our main goal is to raise $30,000, which will pay for the construction materials," says Emma. "Our secondary goal is to cover our travel expenses."
All the goodies are made from scratch, of course.
"We pride ourselves on providing homemade baked goods," says Mikaela. "There are 30 people in our club, and every week we say, 'Hey, try to bake something if you can,' and it always works out that enough people bake and enough people come. So we never know what's going to be on the table until we all get there."
"But we try to always have chocolate cupcakes," Jane adds. "And we usually have a gluten-free option and sometimes vegan, too."
"Emma is really famous for her vegan ginger cookies," says Mikaela.
"And Mikaela is famous for her chocolate chip cookies," says Emma.
"I make chocolate crinkle cookies," says Jane. "It was my grandma's recipe."
So far, they've raised $31,000 - $14,000 from bake sales alone. The rest of the money came from an e-waste drive and emails to more than 5,000 of their family and friends.
In addition, each student created his/her individual fundraising page, all of which are linked to the Albany High fundraising page.
If you'd like to contribute, you can access that page at act.buildon.org/fundraise/team?ftid=25134 or send a check to BuildOn, 777 Long Ridge Road, Building A, 3rd Floor, Stamford, CT 06902. Please write "Attention Sarah Lippman" on the envelope and "Albany High School" on the memo line so your donation will be routed directly to them.
"An anonymous donor told us he would match us if we raised $4,000, and that got done in two hours, which is cool," says Mikaela.
If all goes according to schedule, they'll fly to Nicaragua in early July and stay for a week, laying the foundations and beginning the construction that the villagers themselves will finish up after they've left.
Last year, Mikaela and Emma helped build a school in Nepal. "The village is so small, it's not even on Google Maps," Emma says.
If all this talk of yummy desserts is making your mouth water, you can buy some every Saturday and Sunday in front of Builders Booksource. Unlike some businesses, who shoo young people like them away, the store's owners couldn't be more encouraging.
"They're awesome!" says Emma. "They're always really supportive and excited to see us. They always ask about our progress, and they really like our chocolate chip cookies!"

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