Hand students help with basic supplies in Dominican Republic - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Hand students help with basic supplies in Dominican Republic

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More than half the kids who go to Hand Middle School in Columbia are on free or reduced lunch. You might say they're in need.

But they're actually financially giving support to students at another school -- all the way down to the Dominican Republic. That's about 1,200 miles south of Columbia.

While supply drives are common, ones like this are not, and teacher Lee McDonald is coordinating it all.

On a visit to the Dominican Republic, she saw a school and had to show what she saw.

"The people of Dominica call this area the Cry of Lorraine because of the poverty there," said McDonald.

To give you an idea of the state the Dominican kids are living in, one of the smallest rooms at Hand is about 11 feet wide and 22 feet long. That's about twice the size of the homes the kids in the Dominican Republic live in.

"You have maybe, cardboard type housing," said McDonald. "So you're talking poorest of the poor."

McDonald snapped several photos on her trip and showed them to her students. Jocelyn Ayala-Cruz took it personally.

"I'm also part Dominican, so I feel connected to them," said Ayala-Cruz. "It's like I'm helping family."

So Ayala-Cruz and her classmates are making a list of books, packing up supplies, even using the language skills calls to the school to make sure things are in order.

It may not be surprising that they've delved in. But many of the kids could use a little help themselves. More than half of them qualify to get free or reduced lunch everyday.

"The children that we have noticed that we would think don't have as much, coming from difficult situations, they're giving pencils, they're opening their book bags, they're giving to the point one day I had to say, 'You don't have a pencil for class. You can't give away all your stuff.' They said, 'I can get more," said McDonald. "They can't get more."

It's a lesson in relativity for students who realize your hands don't have to be full to be able to share.

"Live better, make them feel better about themselves, to give them like, hope that something better is out there for them," said Ayala-Cruz.

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