BREVARD COUNTY — When schools closed down in March and the public was forced into lockdown, a dedicated group of students from Odyssey Charter Jr./Sr. High School sprang into action.
Four students formed Odyssey’s Rotary Interact Club at the end of January 2020 and in two months grew to 15 members with a sponsorship by the Rotary Club of Palm Bay.
While in lockdown, these students continued to hold Interact Club meetings via Zoom and conducted three service projects before the end of the school year.
Thanks in part to the Rotary District 6930 putting them in touch with the West Boca Raton High School and Palm Beach High School Interact clubs, the Odyssey Jr./Sr. High Interact Club was able to get on board of a pilot program working with Princess Sarah Culberson and her nonprofit, Sierra Leone Rising.
Princess Sarah was adopted as a baby by an American family in West Virginia and she discovered her birth parents as an adult. Her mother was an American woman who died from cancer and her father is Prince Joseph Konia Kposowa. She is a member of a Mende royal family and they were thrilled to find her again, Princess Sarah said in a Zoom call.
On July 15, Interact students from Odyssey Charter Jr./Sr. High School met virtually with Princess Sarah, where they learned how they can make a global impact.
“When I first heard there was a princess we were going to be meeting, I was really ecstatic,” said Ava Hines, Odyssey Jr./Sr. High Interact Club president and founder. “When I first met Princess Sarah, I thought she was really sweet. I was really happy we were going to be chosen to help her and her whole country.”
The three Interact Clubs will join in a year-long project to provide solar lanterns for students in Sierra Leone. The Odyssey Jr./Sr. High Interact Club, along with the Palm Bay Rotary Club, will work to fundraise $3,333.33 to purchase solar lanterns at $20 each.
The ultimate goal of the three Interact Clubs is to raise $10,000 and purchase 500 solar lanterns. The solar lanterns will be purchased in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone, so this money will provide a great benefit for the West African economy.
Currently, children in Sierra Leone are studying by kerosene lamps. This is also the only source of lighting in a household. These lamps often cause fires or kill children who mistake the oil for water, according to Princess Sarah.
“It’s sad that we have something that they don’t,” Ava said. “If we can raise this money and contribute it to another country, they won’t feel as alone. This project can benefit the whole of Africa, not just Sierra Leone, because they’ll realize that there are other people who are there to help them.”
Thomas Rebman, Odyssey Interact teacher sponsor and Palm Bay Rotarian, added, “I want them to learn that not only can you have a major impact in your own community, don’t think you can’t have a global impact. If we put effort into this and we get the power of Rotary and other clubs behind us, the amount of good that we can do for the community of Sierra Leone is unmatched.”
Sierra Leone Rising, formerly known as the Kpowosa Foundation, is a shared effort between Princess Sarah and her half-brother, Hindo. The nonprofit has worked to rebuild Bumpe High School after the 11-year Blood Diamond war, and has provided many services for its community.
In partnership with Rotary International, Sierra Leone Rising has been able to dig wells that serve 12,000 people and provide supplies during the Ebola virus epidemic in 2014-15.
“When I was younger, one of my teachers gave me the idea of volunteering so I joined the National Junior Honor Society,” Ava said.
Inspired to bring an Interact Club to her school, Ava and her classmates have been working to make a difference in the community.
Earlier this year, the students took on service projects such as adopting a senior, partnering with the Girl Scouts of America to make notes and deliver cookies to seniors for National Peanut Butter Cookie Day, and making care packages for homeless students in transition.
Now, the Odyssey Jr./Sr. High Interact Club is learning how with the support of their community and other clubs, they can reach beyond what they might not have imagined.
If any civic groups or organizations are interested in partnering with Odyssey Jr./Sr. High School, contact Mr. Rebman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (407) 421-8115.