Elementary school students help form non-profit to support homeless children in developing countries

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) - As Dr. Seuss once wrote, "A person is a person no matter how small."

It's a quote used more like a motto by a group of students at Hamlin Elementary School in Rochester Hills.

Last year, a group of second graders helped form "Classrooms Helping Kids"—a charity that helps support homeless children in developing countries. 

"I felt like this would be a good idea to help people who don't have homes or food," said Armaan Hussaini, third grader at Hamlin Elementary. "I feel bad for those people and I want them to be like me."

It was an idea sparked by two passionate Oakland County teachers who traveled abroad and saw first-hand what children had to deal with in developing countries. When they arrived back to their classrooms, they explained the situation to their students and were amazed by the response.

"We would tell them that we met kids that didn't have all of the toys that they had and didn't have all of the books to read that they had…and our kids seemed just as concerned about it as we were," said Chandler Yatooma, co-founder of Classrooms Helping Kids.

After their students were eager to do anything in their power to help, an idea was born.

"It's funny, Chandler said to me one day: let's start orphanages! We're both teachers and the social studies curriculum talks about wants versus needs and it was such a perfect tie-in to what the students were already learning about that they could apply something to a real world situation and help other kids," said Kristin Cumming, second grade teacher at Hamlin Elementary School.

So, Cumming's class rallied together and helped form the nonprofit. They brainstormed fundraising ideas to move the program forward, made a video to raise awareness for their cause and were able to get business sponsors on board.

Through the students' efforts, "Classrooms Helping Kids" was able to open two orphanages in India this past summer with the help of business sponsors.

"The kids were in there and they just kind of…didn't quite understand, ‘I have a home? I have food? This is all provided for me? What's the catch,'" said Kristin, describing the kids' reactions in India when they opened the orphanages. "The excitement on their faces was priceless."

An orphanage that houses about 15 to 20 children costs around $20,000 to build—that includes shoes, school supplies, beds and infrastructure. The community works to sustain the orphanage and the non-profit selects house parents to live there and care for the children.

"I wanted to give back to other people so they could feel the way we feel," said Chloe Murray, third grader at Hamlin Elementary School.

Chandler and Kristin hope the program will spread to other schools. They already have two schools that have signed up for fundraising efforts to start in the spring.

The pair says they will work with any school individually that wants to participate to find the right fundraising program that works for them.

"We really wanted to give the kids the unique opportunity to have ownership of a program and to really relate of where they are giving their money to," said Chandler. "We really want to connect each orphanage with a school so the kids can really know who the kids in their orphanage are-- and they can communicate with them and do things for them."

Their goal is to watch students become young philanthropists and realize they have the ability to make a difference in the world.

"I think it's really important that students at a young age learn compassion and learn how to help others because they are growing up to be the future leaders of our country," said Kristin.

While teaching young students to learn compassion, the non-profit also helps children in other countries have opportunities they wouldn't otherwise be afforded.

"I really think that people underestimate the potential of children and I think that children have amazing potential to do amazing things --and they may not have the means to do that," said Chandler. "I'm really hoping that Classrooms Helping Kids gives them that opportunity."

It's an opportunity that young students at Hamlin Elementary School believe every child should have around the world.

"I hope that all of the homeless people… kids get a school and get good clothes and get to eat and drink," said third grader Micah Gendich.

For more information on Classroom Helping Kids, log on to their Website at www.classroomshelpingkids.org .

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