Courtesy Guam-Miconesia Mission

April 5, 2020

They Need a Gym

“They need a gym.” This statement was heard over and over again during a discussion about the Seventh-day Adventist school in Kosrae, Micronesia. The teacher had just returned from a visit to that school and was sharing what she had learned while on the beautiful island of Kosrae.

The students at Downers Grove Adventist School learned about the hard, heavy rain that falls almost every day. They learned that there is no flat playground, no blacktop or paved area, no fellowship hall, no gymnasium — that there is no place to play when it rains. The unanimous opinion was that those students need a gym. A second thought followed right on the heels of the first. “We can help them build a gym!” 

A plan was quickly adopted. Viviana Granberry expressed her enthusiasm for the project, “I am so happy that we get to put other people’s needs before our own. We are helping another school build a gym even though we don’t have a gym at our school.”  

The students used plastic bricks to represent the cement blocks that would be used in actually building a gymnasium. Since a local home improvement store sold cement bricks for $1.50 each, it was decided that each plastic brick would also “cost” $1.50 for a student to purchase. There was one more important part to the plan. The money for the bricks needed to be earned by the students. They could not simply ask people for money. The students wanted the experience of actually working toward the success of this gym-building project.   

In no time at all, students began earning bricks. The students placed the bricks on a foundation to model the gym they were helping to build. Gloria Jimenez was excited about the project because she said it was like being a missionary. Even though she was still young, she was working to help another school far across the ocean. Students thought of clever and unusual ways to earn bricks. Soon students began besieging teachers and parents with offers to clean, organize, tidy, sort, tutor, repair and carry, all in addition to the performance of their regular chores and duties. One mother reported that her children, “. . .are more excited to help at home and even do extra, so that they can earn money for Kosrae.” 

One unusual brick “purchase” was made by Jazmyn Cervetti who said, “I gave some of the money I got for my birthday because I want to make other kids glad. It makes me glad, too, to be able to help.”   

Donating birthday money, picking up sticks outside, taking down Christmas decorations, cleaning the walls, setting up tables for art class, cleaning the tables after lunch, cutting out flash cards, organizing the library, sweeping the floor, putting up posters, sorting the mail, only ordering a small sundae instead of a large sundae and donating the difference in the cost of the two sundaes are only some of the projects students have undertaken to earn money for bricks.  

Donations from church members provide the funds that teachers use to “pay” students when they earn bricks. Another source of funding was a schoolwide penny war. On Friday mornings, during assembly, the students proudly bring their money to the school where they “buy” bricks and joyfully place them on the walls of the model gymnasium. They enjoy counting the number of bricks that have been raised and set intermediate goals like working together to earn 50 or 100 bricks. 

Nayeli Torres smiled as she summed up the feelings of the students. “It’s a wonderful pleasure to be able to help people in need.” 

Patricia Williams teaches grades 5-8 at Downers Grove Adventist School.