WESLEY CHAPEL Anastasia Krekic and Jordan Parker squeezed side-by-side into a rocking chair and hesitated just for a moment.
Then, taking turns, they begin to read aloud a tale about an impoverished Ugandan girl, her milk-producing goat and a life-changing moment. DIGITAL
“If you were to visit the small African village of Kisinga in the rolling hills of western Uganda,” the story begins, “and if you were to take a left at the crossroads and follow a narrow dirt path between two tall banana groves, you would come to the home of a girl named Beatrice.”
Gathered around the two third-graders were students in teacher Laura Highfill's fourth-grade class at New River Elementary. Every page or so, Anastasia and Jordan paused to quiz the older students about what they had just read.
Hands flew up. Answers flew after them. The students were inspired by the book titled “Beatrice's Goat.”
“I could tell you were really paying attention,” Highfill told her students as they fielded the queries.
Principal Lynn Pabst hopes this educational moment ends up touching and improving the lives of poor families in faraway countries.
Because the story, titled “Beatrice's Goat,” is about a real-life girl who pursued an education using money her family earned by selling the goat's milk. The family received the goat from Heifer International, an Arkansas-based nonprofit organization that provides poor families with animals that produce something nourishing or marketable, such as eggs, milk, cheese and honey.
“Beatrice's Goat” inspired nine third-graders at New River Elementary to take on a mission, summed up succinctly by 9-year-old Molly Witt.
“To buy an animal and give it to the poor so they can have more money for food and school,” Molly said.
In addition to Molly, Anastasia and Jordan, the others involved in the project are Jeremiah Loo, 8; Brooke Baldus, 8; Rylee Humphries, 9; Nicholas Mackley, 9; Kieran Milligan, 9; and Andrew Smith, 8.
“They are a very special group,” Pabst said.
So far, through personal efforts along with proceeds from a schoolwide coin drive, the children have amassed $370. They hope to collect even more this weekend by setting up a Heifer International display during New River Elementary School's first Farmers' Market, which is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in front of the school at 4710 River Glen Blvd. in Wesley Chapel.
The Farmers' Market's main function is to serve as a showpiece for the school's garden, which all the students help with, growing onions, lettuce, radishes and other produce. Community vendors will have displays as well.
For the market, the nine third-graders created posters about the animals they hope to help buy for needy families.
The most expensive animal on the list is a heifer, which costs $500 for a full purchase or $50 for a share. By comparison, a trio of rabbits costs $60 or $10 for a share.
Chicks may be the cheapest of all. A flock goes for $20. The full cost is already so low that no share price is offered.
The children also want to buy shares of other creatures on the Heifer International list, such as water buffaloes, pigs and bees. So far, they can buy two shares of every animal they are interested in, but they hope to build on that by collecting donations at the Farmers' Market.
This week, to drum up interest, the third-graders visited other New River classrooms, reading “Beatrice's Goat.”
“I thought it was fun because we could tell people why we were doing this and our purpose and why we needed the money,” Nicholas Mackley said.
So for a few brief moments, with third-graders leading them, New River students imagined taking a left at the crossroads and journeying between the banana groves to the home of a girl named Beatrice.