By Teri Carnicelli
Three local youth were recognized last month for their ongoing projects to aid disadvantaged youth around the globe.
North Central resident Seamus Simmons, 13, was 9 years old the first time he visited a school in the township of Soweto in South Africa and saw firsthand the lack of basic supplies for the school children. It made such an impression on Seamus, that when he returned home he started fundraising to buy supplies and send them to the school.
Seamus, with the help of his younger brother Nathan and friend/classmate Ben Prebil, created the Re-Pack Project to continue to collect and donate used school supplies to benefit underprivileged children around the world. Other students joined in the cause, including Eli Reed, 13, who helps out with collecting and sorting donations.
Notebooks that have unused pages in them are cleaned up, pencils that can still be used are collected, half-empty school glue bottles are accepted, and much more. The supplies are sorted into backpacks and delivered to kids in need.
Last year Seamus traveled to Peru to distribute the donated supplies. His parents, Jeremy and Carrie Simmons, are the founders of Travel With Kids, and organize family-oriented group trips each summer, which can be viewed on their internationally syndicated TV show (https://travelwithkids.pivotshare.com). So the distribution points tie in with their travel itineraries. In summer 2016, they will be going to Thailand and back to South Africa, where the idea for the Re-Pack Project was first born.
The young me were part of a team of six students who submitted a video to the National Creative Expression Contest, conducted in the spring by The Be Kind People Project, which is based in Phoenix. The theme of the contest was “The Meaning of Kindness.” They videotaped classmates and teachers at their school, Ss. Simon and Jude, talking about what kindness means to them, and then spoke about the Re-Pack Project and how it is serving other children. They won first place in the contest.
“To me, kindness means giving back. That’s why we came up with the Re-Pack Project,” Seamus says in the video. “More than 72 million kids worldwide don’t return to school because of poverty. These supplies can help them break the cycle of poverty and live better lives.”
In recognition of the work done by these young men and by the Be Kind People Project, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton proclaimed Nov. 13 as Phoenix Be Kind Day during a special ceremony held in his offices at Phoenix City Hall.
“Students in Phoenix utilize and aspire toward the traits of the Be Kind Pledge: to Be Encouraging, Be Supportive, Be Positive, Be Helpful, Be Honest, Be Considerate, Be Thankful, Be Responsible, Be Respectful, and Be a Friend,” the proclamation reads. “We should follow their example, and make certain we all hold kindness as a virtue in our day-to-day lives.”
Through innovative and culturally relevant youth development programs and services, The Be Kind People Project initiates social change in grades K-8. Current state and federal academic learning standards are reinforced with grade-specific, ready-to-use lessons, contests, and monthly challenges that integrate character education and academic skills. For more information, visit www.TheBeKindPeopleProject.org.