Sixth Graders Raise Funds to Combat River Blindness

Clara Tazelaar, Ella Nadeau, and Maddy Peel present Dr. Daniel Shungu of United Front Against Riverblindness with a check for $350 to help battle the devastating disease that affects many adults in Africa.

JW sixth-grade students Ella Nadeau, Maddy Peel, and Clara Tazelaar have raised $350 to help battle river blindness in the Democratic Republic of Congo through a fundraiser conducted on their own initiative.

After hearing a moving presentation from Dr. Daniel Shungu, founder and executive director of United Front Against Riverblindness (UFAR), a non-profit organization based in Lawrenceville, N.J., the girls banded together to make a difference, going first to principal Jason Burr for permission to hold a bake sale at their school.

Once the girls launched the fundraiser, also aiding in the effort were teachers Monica Kenah, Kristina Fellin, Valerie Newhall, Kelly Riely, Mary McNamara, and Jacques Bazile.

In accepting the gift, Shungu noted that the students' contribution will have a positive affect on children their own age in the Congo.

"River blindness is an adult disease, but kids are also victims, explained Dr. Shungu They have to take care of the blind adults -- in some villages, 60-70 percent of the adult population is blind. The children will be illiterate if they cannot go to school because they have to help the adults."

Riverblindness is a parasitic disease that that has left 21 million people at risk, 13 million infected and about 70,000 blind. In 1998, a team from the World Health Organization was taken to a remote village in DRC where over 90 percent of the population was blind from the disease, also known as onchocerciasis.

"Before I met Dr. Shungu, I had no idea what river blindness was," said Clara.

"His presentation was very moving," said Maddie, adding that she would like to launch another fundraiser for the organization next year.