Priyanka Bonifaz knows firsthand what poverty looks like. As a child growing up in India, she witnessed those around her struggling to survive and vowed to help the less fortunate later in her life.
Fast forward to earlier this year when the eighth grade student at Barrington Middle School decided to do something meaningful, and with the help from teacher Connie Oswald, started the Nickels for Nets campaign — a fund-raiser to purchase protective bed netting for handicapped children in Haiti. The $10 nets will be sent to rural Haiti to protect children from parasite infected mosquitos that carry malaria.
“I have always had ideas of what I wanted to do to make a difference in the world. Since I was young I had sympathy for people experiencing poverty. Living in Barrington these past five years, you don’t see it. I wanted to bring awareness to students and help at the same time,” Priyanka said.
She said more than 700,000 children die from malaria worldwide each year.
In May, Priyanka showed a Power Point presentation to the entire middle school population to raise awareness of the profound poverty and daily hardships people in third world countries experience. She also used the opportunity to raise money for her cause.
The presentation, “A World Beyond Barrington” brought the issue front and center and the response was overwhelming.
“We raised about $1,500 in a short amount of time. We had a plastic container in each classroom and a benefit concert. People were very generous,” she said.
The benefit concert alone brought in $600. The jazz band, acapella group and the eight grade chorus performed to a large crowd where donations were taken at the door for admittance. A bake sale in conjunction with the concert helped bring in some more money.
Mrs. Oswald, the advisor for the school’s Community Service Club, said Priyanka is a natural leader and a true steward of good will.
“I am so impressed with Priyanka’s effort. Her Power Point was wonderfully done and she captured the response she was going for. It has been a pleasure to work with her on this project,” Mrs. Oswald said.
As of the end of June, the pair were in the process of finalizing communications with Operation Blessing International, a non-profit humanitarian organization, to get the nets in the hands of caregivers for the benefit of handicapped children.
“I am spending the month of August in Haiti in a mother-daughter volunteer program with my mom. I hope to see where the nets have been put to use and learn other ways to help in the future,” said Priyanka.
— By Joan D. Warren