Last year, I had the pleasure to meet Deb Wallace — principal of the Napa Valley Language Academy — while in California presenting on the characteristics of highly-engaged learning environments.  Deb’s school is a pretty remarkable place that is working to give students the chance to make a meaningful difference in the world.

For Deb’s students, making a difference means supporting an orphanage in the Congo — one of the poorest countries in the world.  Since 2005, her school has raised just over $50,000 for the orphanage.  Their contributions have helped to bring food and clean water to the orphanage, along with clothing, mattresses and a security wall.

The next challenge for the Napa Valley Language Academy is to raise funds to build classrooms for the 300 children who come to the orphanage to learn each day:

Talk about an eye-opener, huh?  Do YOUR students know that there are places in the world where there are kids sitting on rocks in open-air classrooms in order to learn?  Would they be surprised to find out that 25 hand-made books sent by students in the United States qualifies as a library?

More importantly, would they be willing to help the Napa Valley Language Academy to raise money to build new classrooms for Mamma Jeanne’s orphanage?

If the answer is yes, here’s how you can help:

(1). Plan some kind of fund raiser for the orphanage in the next few months.  

Tie it into your curriculum.  Have your kids develop persuasive speeches to deliver to potential sponsors in your community.  Design influential advertising messages to grab the attention of the parents and students in your school community.

Consider allowing groups of students to start businesses for school market fair days where they can raise funds to donate to the cause.  Run a talent show, holiday concert or community auction.  Put your kids in charge of the entire event — from casting and auditions to advertising, lighting and sound.

There’s GOT to be academic lessons that kids can learn while doing work that matters, right?

(2).  Try to raise as much as you can.

Napa Valley’s ultimate goal is to raise $40,000 to cover the cost of building three new classrooms for Mama Jeanne’s orphanage in the Congo.  To meet this goal, NVLA is hoping to find 40 schools willing to donate $1,000 each.

They are MORE than willing, however, to accept donations for LESS than $1,000.  My student-led Kiva Club, for example, has pledged to donate the proceeds of our annual fund raiser which is typically around $500.

Moral of the story:  Don’t be scared away from participating by the $1,000 target set by NVLA.  Even single classrooms working on their own can be a part of this project.

(3).  Get your donations turned in.

There are two different ways to get your donations turned in. Checks can be made out to “Mamma Jeanne’s Children’s Home” and sent to NVLA, 2700 Kilburn Ave., Napa, CA 94559.  You can also use the Napa Valley Language Academy’s iDonation page to turn in any funds you raise.

If you have any questions about the project, contact Rosie Berger of the Napa Valley Language Academy at 707-253-3678;

Let’s do this, huh?  Let’s prove to our kids that they CAN make an impact on the world around them.  And let’s prove to ourselves that the most meaningful learning experiences are those where students are taking action and driving change.



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