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Vanguard Students Make Ornaments for Refugees

Sixth-grade students at Vanguard Charter Academy were moved to help a group of people they learned about in social studies this year. They created a product, marketed it, and sold it to raise more than $900 during December.

See the Fox 17 news coverage of the story here.

Jeff Verkaik, a sixth-grade teacher, introduced his students to the Rohingya people during a social studies lesson and invited a young refugee to his class to speak with the students about his first-hand experience.
“The Rohingya people just came on my radar a year ago as my family prepared to welcome a Rohingya family to Grand Rapids,” said Verkaik. “They are called the most persecuted people on earth.  They are from Myanmar, but are being killed and kicked out of there and being forced to flee.”
After his students learned more about the Rohingya refugees, they wanted to help. As part of a hands-on lesson the students came up with an idea and how to market it. They decided to make Christmas ornaments to sell.
“The money we raise will go to an agency that helps them [Rohingya refugees] and a young man who came and talked to my class,” said Verkaik. “He has eight brothers and sisters there - all who escaped without being killed - that are now living in a rice field without any shelter and very little food.”
For the project, the class divided up into four groups - website development, designing business cards, developing an invoice, and production.
“We started with $30 from Mr. Verkaik, which we will pay back,” said student LaAnna Griffin, who has spent part of each class making the ornaments.”
Verkaik cut the trees that the ornaments are made out of and is helping with shipping them to those ordering online.
In addition, the staff at Vanguard donated $5 each to the cause.