A few minutes after I got to work yesterday, one of my fifth graders came shyly into the staffroom. She walked up to my desk and handed me a small “Toy Story” envelope, and then hurriedly bowed and shitsureshimasu-ed her way out of the room.
The picture above is what was inside the envelope. I read the letter first. Not only does it mean a lot to me because of the nice stuff she said, but also because I know how hard she must have worked on it. Fifth grade is the first year my students study English, and so getting a note with words that aren’t fruits, colors, or sports was quite impressive. Even with help, this would have been a lot of work. It’s so sweet she took the time to do that. After reading the letter, I looked to see what else was in the envelope, expecting (and maybe hoping) it was candy. What I found was a million times better: 630 yen (about $7). I don’t want you thinking my fifth grader was trying to bribe me for a good grade in English, so let me explain why she gave me the money. In order to do this, it requires a little information about the musical I’m in.
Many of you have seen pictures of the musical on facebook, but beyond that don’t know much about it. The purpose of the musical is to raise money to build a school in Papua New Guinea. The schools built by the tribes in PNG need to be rebuilt every 3 years because the materials start to rot, but the schools we build there last much longer. At the end of each musical performance we explain our goal to the audience and ask for donations. In order to demonstrate how even a small donation is useful, we explain that 2,000 yen (or about $20) is enough to pay a child’s educational expenses for a year.
Now you see why the 630 yen was so sweet. Even though it was just a few coins, it was all she could give. I remember being in 5th grade and how big of a deal $7 was back then. I’m sure this felt like a big sacrifice for her, but she was willing to do it in order to help other kids have more opportunities. I’m proud to know her.