Harborfields high school teacher goes beyond the classroom

Harborfields high school teacher goes beyond the classroom

Michelle DaSilva stands on stage with members of the Global Justice Club during one of their concert fundraisers. Photo from Michelle DaSilva

For one teacher at Harborfields High School, ensuring her students receive a proper education doesn’t stop at academics.

Michelle DaSilva has been teaching world history at the high school for years, but in 2009 she started a new venture, as advisor to the Global Justice Club.

“This club is meant to let kids know what is going on in other parts of the world,” DaSilva said in a phone interview. She said there are about 70 to 80 kids involved in the club.

The first fundraiser the club organized was to collect baby supplies after Hurricane Sandy devastated the people of Haiti in 2005.

“I had just had a baby and I kept thinking about all the woman in that developing country who didn’t have diapers, or formula,” she said. The club found a local organization that worked with an orphanage in Haiti, where the members were able to donate the $1,500 in items they received.

Since then, DaSilva said the club has gotten bigger and bigger.

In 2010, the club organized the first global justice concert, which has become the main event the group works on during the year. DaSilva described the concert as an event “fully run by the students,” that has helped the club raise more than $10,000 since it started. Members of the club hold auditions, promote the show, organize the raffle and host it, according to the teacher.

Two years into the event, DaSilva said she met Lucy Sumner, a former Harborfields teacher who traveled back to her hometown of Sierra Leone. She runs a non-profit called Magic Penny, which provides financial support for educational, economic and agricultural programs within her country.

“Now all the money goes directly to her,” DaSilva said. “She’s an amazing woman, and what’s nice is that I know exactly where the money is going. When I put it in her hands, it’s being used for the right thing.”

Global Justice has raised enough money for Magic Penny to fund the building of a school, scholarships for students, teacher training programs, and more.

Currently, DaSilva said they are raising money to help create a middle school, since the first school they raised money for only teaches children up to fifth grade.

“These students are now having to go into the city for middle school, where there is a lot of exploitation and unsafe circumstances, and their families cannot afford to travel with them,” DaSilva said.

Aside from the annual concert, the Global Justice club also organizes and participates in many other fundraisers throughout the year, including a 24-hour famine where students are sponsored…; food drives; and education campaigns — one of which was a refugee project, where members of the club turned different hallways into parts of the world where there are large refugee problems.

“We want to be thinking globally,” DaSilva said of the club, “and acting locally.”