From “OPS News”, April 2011:

OPS Students “Ship Hope to Africa”

At least 6,000 articles of clothing and 6,000 pairs of shoes. That’s the goal Katja Starkey set when she began collecting items for the “Ship Hope to Africa” project, which aids the thousands of amputees and war-wounded in Sierra Leone, Africa. Starkey is a former OPS teacher and the founder/director of Touch the Nations, an organization that provides relief work to countries in need. She was able to accomplish her goal, thanks in part to the Honors Human Services Academy at Burke High School.

Burke High juniors Sammi Marousek and Ingrid Olsen met Starkey at the World Refugee Day last summer and said they were inspired to learn about her work in Africa. They asked her to speak to their Honors Human Services Academy class, which focuses on social work and volunteerism. Shortly after, the class and teacher Nancy Burkhart decided to team up with Touch the Nations for the philanthropic effort.

“We needed to set up a volunteer project, so we thought this would be perfect,” said Marousek.

The students sought donations by hanging posters at the school and distributing flyers to local businesses and homes in the Burke neighborhood. In the first week alone, they had collected dozens of boxes of clothing, school supplies, toys and a range of household items.

“It is so neat that we gathered this much in such a short period of time,” said Marousek.

“This class really opens the door for volunteering,” added Olsen. “Students want to help, but sometimes we don’t know how to get

In addition to Burke’s effort, students at Buffett Magnet Middle School and the Focus School at Lewis & Clark also acquired donations.

“More students than adults are doing the work,” said Starkey. “The students are the engine making the project move. It would not be happening without them.”

Besides soliciting donations, Starkey said OPS students have provided much of the labor involved in the project, including counting items, packing the inventory and hauling boxes.

As of late March, the sea crate—measuring 40 feet by 8 feet by 8 feet—was completely full, and Touch the Nations had secured the funding to ship it. The students involved said “Ship Hope to Africa” has reinforced the importance of volunteering.

“Meeting Katja [Starkey] has inspired me to do more with my life and make a difference,” said Marousek.

“This project reminds me how grateful I am for what I have,” added junior Emily Moore. “It makes my day to help someone else.”