CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Montessori Community School students Nicole Ka'aihue, left, and Emily Brogan-Freitas collected canned goods through the month of November for donation to the Hawaii Foodbank.
Always in the spirit
Sure, we'd all like to do something to help others, but we're too busy, too short of cash or we just think we can't do enough to make a difference. These kids are doing what they can, all year round, and they're only in the sixth grade. Now, what's your excuse?
By all appearances, Montessori Community School is a little oasis of learning, where development of a child's spirit is as important as academics.
The 35-year-old nonsectarian school on the grounds of Central Baptist Church in Makiki serves children ages 2 to 12. Many of them couple their basic education with service projects that keep the school's philosophy at heart by serving their communities with compassion.
One day early last week, sixth-graders Nicole Ka'aihue and Emily Brogan-Freitas were on their regular rounds, going from class to class to pick up food contributions. Their nearly monthlong holiday food drive ended Friday.
"We're doing good," Nicole said. "We've got about a hundred cans so far. Each week, every classroom brings in canned food, pasta and rice, and we pick them up and take them to the office, where the Hawaii Foodbank comes by and takes them."
"We hope to get as much food as possible," added Emily. (By drive's end the girls had collected 30 cases of food and 200 pounds of rice.)
Kathy Shirakawa, the school's director of admissions, said the girls went to every class before the food drive began to talk about what they were doing.
The girls are model students of the Montessori system of learning, where children are taught at their own skill levels in mixed-grade classes. They are in their last year at Montessori Community School, and both recently finished interviews with Iolani and Kamehameha Schools.
Shirakawa emphasized that the spirit of service and charity is a year-round thing for the school, from schoolwide collecting of recyclables to individual projects.
"Some of the boys help out by cleaning out the ditch that runs along the side of the church building that houses our school," she said. "All of our students have different interests, and all want to get out there to help."
Kapua Fujikawa and Alyssa Lau's goal of raising $5,000 for the charity Heifer International might have been bit of a stretch, but the sixth-graders are game. Their chosen charity battles world poverty by providing live "gift animals" to rural families for use in food and farming.
By Friday, with the help of a two-day bake sale, the children had raised about $800, and as soon as they come up with new fundraising ideas, they'll keep on shooting for their lofty goal.
"We're keeping our hopes up," Alyssa mused. "If we don't get to reach our goal, we'll take the most useful animals, like cows, water buffaloes, maybe baby chickens, or something children will find fun, like rabbits.
"Kapua and I volunteered to do this project. It's pretty much our Christmas gift to the world."