“We were looking for a community service project. We started searching for something that would be really important,” said Jenevee Spence, the club’s faculty sponsor and school’s ELA department chair. “We came across the International Women’s House. It was unique to partner with someone our students can identify with.”
For the last several months the club, comprised of nearly 50 students of largely international origins, has been collecting a host of essentials including food, clothes, toys and hygiene items. The goal is to donate them to the International Women’s House, a Decatur-based organization that offers support and assistance to women who are refugees and immigrants, including victims of domestic violence. This school year, the club has shared donations collected largely through word-of-mouth and the charitable attitude of students and staff at Stone Mountain High.
“Some of our friends are not even part of the club. But once they heard, they wanted to donate too,” said Amira Al-Shemari, a senior. Another club member, senior Natali Pacheco, concurred. “I was proud to see what people gathered and what we accomplished,” she said. Classmate and freshman Byona Byaruhanga added, “We’re providing a free community service.”
After the success of the initial effort, the club plans to push even further. Marilyn Bresnan, outreach coordinator for the International Women’s House, will visit students soon and make a presentation on more efforts to support women in need. From there, the club plans to jump start a second round of donations that includes posters and more.
“We’re still doing it. We just can’t stop doing it. We have to help these people,” said Al-Shemari. When asked how this could be viewed in light of the recent debate on immigration in the United States, she added, “No matter what’s said, we want to help people. The main thing is to help.”
That’s the main lesson, according to Spence. She said the club’s members come from across the world and often from families of modest means. They are not able to meet with those they help due to confidentiality reasons, but the students understand they are making a difference.
The students are determined to help, she said. “It doesn’t matter what we have. We can still find ways to help others,” said Spence. “It shows their thinking is ‘we’ve got to help others too’.”