Part 3: The Return to Joplin

This is the third part of a three part series by public school early childhood special education teacher, Debby Guardino, from Chesapeake, VA. After raising funds and educational material through DonorsChoose.org, and her personal social networks, Hipmunk helped her travel to Joplin, MO to meet the teachers she’d been working with, deliver the donated supplies, and see the damage and relief efforts. 

With an invitation extended by Joplin Schools to attend the teachers’ “Opening Day Ceremonies” and students’ “Back to School Celebration,” I began planning for my return trip to Joplin. While I was hopeful that every teacher’s project would receive enough funds, I knew there were no guarantees. With the help of some targeted marketing from DonorsChoose.org, friends, family and the help of social networking sites, projects began funding and donations started to soar. Currently, over $400,000 in donations to classroom projects was generated and over 500 Joplin classroom projects funded.

My return trip to Joplin was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Visiting schools and new facilities set up for those destroyed by the tornado demonstrated the resilience and determination of Joplin School Administrators. As I met with teachers, they reported again and again about their success with DonorsChoose.org. They described the hope they felt as they started the new school year with their eyes fixed on the future, never forgetting the lessons learned from the past 87 days.

 As an educator, the most rewarding part was seeing the happy, hope-filled faces of children returning the first day of school. Walking into the Duesquene Elementary cafeteria, I was greeted by an orange slice smile provided by one of the first graders enjoying her breakfast. 

 

At that point I knew that Joplin kids were finally returning to a sense of “normalcy.” While there are many challenges ahead, Joplin Schools have done their part to create a “Bright Future” for their students.

If you are interested in helping a Joplin teachers’ project please follow the link to DonorsChoose.org/Joplin  

Part 2: Debby’s DonorsChoose Efforts at Work in Joplin

This is the second part of a three part series by public school early childhood special education teacher, Debby Guardino, from Chesapeake, VA. After raising funds and educational material through DonorsChoose.org, and her personal social networks, Hipmunk helped her travel to Joplin, MO to meet the teachers she’d been working with, deliver the donated supplies, and see the damage and relief efforts.

During my first trip, I met with school officials and toured the area affected by the storm. There is no way to describe the destruction that took place when the EF-5 tornado hit Joplin. Imagine getting in your car and driving six square miles through the heart of your town, all neighborhoods, and to the far outskirts and seeing nothing but rubble. People have a hard time explaining what used to be in certain areas because they look around and are not sure what street they are driving on anymore.

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I cried looking at eight schools in shambles with roofs collapsed in, windows blown out, and piles of brick walls tumbled to the ground. All I could think about was “what if it had happened Monday afternoon instead of Sunday when students and teachers were home. This would have been a much different story.”

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Some of the children in summer school are not talking. The teachers said the only thing the children draw is the tornado and they are jumpy whenever the skies turn dark or it begins to rain.

On my trip, I was able to provide 20 DonorsChoose.org training sessions to teachers to help them raise additional funds, and I dispersed over $400,000 (or three 18-wheelers worth) in donated educational materials obtained through my social networking efforts on Facebook and Twitter


Coordinating with DonorsChoose.org Vice President, Katie Bisbee we set a goal of having at least 200 projects posted, which was accomplished in record time by. Teachers in Joplin were grateful for the help and hopeful that these projects would be funded by the start of the school year. With a sense of accomplishment I headed home to Virginia to continue my online fund raising efforts.

If you are interested in helping a Joplin teachers’ project please follow the link to DonorsChoose.org/Joplin

Next Week: The Return to Joplin

 

Hipmunk Sponsors Teacher’s Trip to Joplin, MO

We first heard the story of public school early childhood special education teacher, Debby Guardino, from Chesapeake, VA, through social media. Like many, Debby felt an instant connection with the teachers from Joplin, MO after the tornado hit in late May, but Debby took it a step further and began raising funds through DonorChoose.org and through her online networks. We reached out to Debby and offered to sponsor her flight to Joplin, MO to meet the teachers she’d been working with, deliver the donated supplies, see the damage and the relief efforts.

We were also lucky enough to get Debby’s firsthand account:

Shortly after 5:30 p.m. tornado sirens rang through the small town of Joplin, Missouri, and by 5:41 p.m. a tornado touched down on the southwest side of the small town.

The crumpled remains of St. John’s Medical Center and an overturned medical evacuation helicopter were the first images I remember seeing as I sat in my living room the evening of May 22. As news reports started coming out of Joplin, I knew the situation was bad, and I immediately felt compelled to act. Within a week I had contacted Joplin Schools and the non-profit online educational charity DonorsChoose.org to see if I could help the 260 Joplin teachers begin rebuilding the classrooms destroyed by the tornado. By early July, with the help of my good friends at Hipmunk, I was in the air headed to Joplin, MO.

Driving through housing areas of Joplin and seeing nothing but cement foundations or cellars and being told this was an area where hundreds of homes used to be was unbelievable. Looking at the ground and seeing a life time of possessions in rubble, or twisted in sheets of metal is disturbing.

I could see children’s stuffed animals, toys, bicycles pelted into the ground like it was part of the terrain.

Next Week: Debby’s DonorsChoose Efforts At Work

If you are interested in helping a Joplin teachers’ project please follow the link to DonorsChoose.org/Joplin

 


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