The Jefferson Township School District raised over $9,000, completing the first of a four-phase project to build a school and safe house that will educate and empower young Kenyan girls and protect them from the dangers of human trafficking. These fundraising efforts started at the beginning of the previous school year, but it went into full force at the beginning of the calendar year aligned with Human Trafficking Awareness Month in January.

The Origin

This fundraising effort, called Operation Safe Home, stemmed from a long line of Jefferson’s history of fighting human trafficking. Over five years ago, a group of eighth graders founded Project Stay Gold, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the issue of human trafficking. With their advisor, Daniel Papa, a former social studies teacher and now the social studies supervisor for the school district, the organization has grown both in size and notoriety.

Two years ago, the high school student council raised money on a smaller scale to build a kitchen for a tribe in Kenya. The leader of the tribe, Chief Joseph, later reached out to Mr. Papa for a more ambitious project: Operation Safe Home. As the advisor of a human trafficking awareness organization, Mr. Papa did not hesitate to accept the bigger and more ambitious project. With the help of many student leaders, the fundraising efforts began.

The Impact

Over the course of the school year, many fundraising efforts throughout the district took place. At Ellen T. Briggs School, Colleen Megna raised $600 in penny wars. At the high school, student council members raised over $2,500. Middle school student, Magiting “Kiko” Mina, raised $500 through a Walk for Freedom event. At Stanlick School, Trash Mania brought in nearly $1,500. The elementary schools collected $1,000 in change. Dress down days collected almost $3,000 and Project Stay Gold cannings brought in $500. These fundraisers, along with the $1,500 raised through online donations, allowed one community to have an enormous impact on another.

With the money raised, phase one was implemented. This included digging out a location and constructing the foundation. The first part of construction was celebrated by the whole tribal community in a huge groundbreaking ceremony. This gave Jefferson students and faculty a tangible, purposeful, and meaningful vision of how their efforts impacted the lives of so many across the globe.

The community lined up to watch the groundbreaking ceremony. (Photo provided by the Jefferson Township Public Schools)
Children watching the ceremony begin. (Photo provided by the Jefferson Township Public Schools)

The Future

Despite the enormous strides made so far, the project isn’t nearly over. Mr. Papa hopes to see enough money for phases two and three to be completed by the end of the school year, about $12,500 in all. This will construct the walls and the roof.

“Now that the foundation has been set, there’s almost a little pressure on us to see the project through,” Mr. Papa told The Jefferson Chronicle. “I hope that we can even see phase two completed by Christmas break, so that it can be a continuous process on their end in constructing the safe home.”

There are already many plans underway to raise money. Three dress down days have already been approved throughout the district. Plans for back to school nights are underway, and the district is asking for all clubs that do fundraisers to make this project a priority for a charity of choice.

For those interested in helping Operation Safe Home, online donations are accepted through a platinum rated and secure fundraising site called Durga Tree International:https://secure.durgatreeinternational.org/np/clients/dti/donation.jsp?campaign=38. Durga Tree International has vetted the community and verified that Chief Joseph was trustworthy to be responsible for the donations. Durga Tree is responsible for fundraisers around the globe and is giving the school district guidance as they continue their fundraising efforts.

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Kalen Luciano is a senior at Jefferson Township High School. He's involved in many different activities from chorus and the musical to UNICEF and Stand Up to Cancer. In his free time, he enjoys going on hikes, reading, writing, and hanging out with friends.