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Students Walk for Earthquake Survivors

March 29, 2023
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On Feb. 6, 2023, as Betsy Meester was planning a lesson for her middle-school social science and Bible class, she noticed a major event in the news.

Meester is a teacher at Zuni (N.Mex.) Christian Mission School. Her students had been learning about compassion, and Meester wanted to help them explore how to extend their compassion to the world around them.

“On Thursday each week, I lead the middle-school students in learning about various aspects of our emotions. We learn to recognize them, understand what they are for, and manage them as well as we can,” said Meester. “We’ve learned about the compassion that God has for us and how Jesus showed compassion. We have talked about who we have compassion for in our lives and why it's sometimes hard to have compassion. Just as I was planning a lesson about turning our eyes to the world around us, there was an earthquake” in Türkiye and Syria.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Feb. 6 struck southeastern Türkiye and its neighbor Syria. Thousands of aftershocks caused additional damage. The disaster killed over 55,000 people and injured many more. It also left many families, who had already fled as refugees from the Syrian conflict, with massive needs for food, shelter, and water.

The students at Zuni Christian Middle School decided to respond by holding a walk-a-thon to raise money for World Renew’s response to the quake.

“These students are the best,” said Carol Bremer-Bennett, director of World Renew-U.S., who met via Zoom with students in kindergarten through grade 4 a week before the walk-a-thon to talk about the work in Syria. “When I spoke to the students in my zoom call, I told them that they will often hear about first responders on the news. These are the men and women who try to assist people right after a disaster. And then I told them that, in my heart, they were also first responders because they were the first school to ask World Renew how can they could help after this earthquake."

For Meester, planning an event like this was a new experience. She said that the school hadn’t done a fundraiser since before the COVID-19 pandemic, so most of the students had never participated in an event like this.

Even so, the fundraiser was a success. Eighty students, 10 faculty members, and 18 other members of the school community participated in the walk. In addition to walking around the school gymnasium, participants enjoyed good conversation and lots of laughter.

“We did some silly things, like the Hokey Pokey and walking laps with our arms linked. We batted beach balls around the gym, and we were glad to stop for donated snacks such as drink boxes and granola bars,” said Meester. “We prayed together before and after our walking, and we praised God for the fun we had.”

In total, the school raised nearly $9,000 for World Renew’s earthquake response.

“We observed so many benefits of doing a fundraiser like this,” Meester concluded. “We had a great opportunity to learn about compassion – God has compassion for us, and we are learning to have compassion for others both near and far. We learned about gratefulness – Christian communities reach out to one another when help is needed. The Zuni community received help from World Renew during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now God has brought us to a point where we are able to reach out to another community that is in need. Grateful hearts are generous hearts. And we experienced these things in the generosity of our community.”

World Renew will use the proceeds from this fundraiser to support their ongoing work in Syria, where local partners are providing food, shelter, water, and other assistance to people most in need.

“I have been so moved by the sacrificial giving of the Zuni community," said Bremer-Bennett. "I was able to tell some other donors about it, and they have offered to also chip in and increase the amount that the students raised because they were so impressed with the generous and sacrificial spirit of these students."