BROOKSVILLE — Many local students ride yellow buses to school. Many Filipino students ride yellow boats, or, more precisely, yellow boats of hope.
Each year Brooksville Elementary School students hold a big celebration to raise money for a special project. Last year they helped to fund a water pump for children in Africa. Another year they supported Partners in Health, a global health care organization started by Hernando High School graduate Paul Farmer.
This year's celebration will go to the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation in the Philippines. Watching a film clip of children wading through water to get to school, the Brooksville students were moved to help them.
For Filipino children living on mangrove islands who want to go to school, explained global studies resource teacher Kathy Gates, "the only way to get there is to walk to the water chin deep. So every day they get soaking wet."
This prompted Philippine residents Anton Lim, a veterinarian and humanitarian, and Jay Jaboneta, a philanthropist and new- media advocate, to found the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, which began to transfer children to school dry. It has expanded to also provide school supplies, scholarships, and medical and dental assistance to the island communities.
There are now 154 yellow school boats, Gates said, and the organization has begun building smaller boats for families.
The end-of-the-year global celebration covers two days. The first day is devoted to displays about different countries created by different grades, allowing children to learn about a different nation each year.
This year the focus was on Caribbean island countries.
The kindergarten's display was about Trinidad and Tobago. First-graders chose Puerto Rico. Second-graders researched Jamaica. Third-graders studied the Cayman Islands. Fourth grade classes focused on the U.S. Virgin Islands, and fifth-graders did their display on the Dominican Republic.
The fundraising day, "Quarters for Hope," was May 3. There was a Caribbean market full of student-made items for sale, such as paper bag pinatas, tissue flowers, masks and maracas. Students played games, had their faces painted and ate snacks. Everything cost one quarter.
The proceeds, $2,675, will be split between the yellow boat foundation and the school.
"The kids are so excited," Gates said, recalling one student's comment — "You know, it really feels good to help other people."
"That's why we do it," Gates said.