SUWANEE -- When Sylvana Varela and Sarah Jane Lynskey went to their fifth-grade teacher just before the holidays with a research project, they had little idea that it would blossom into the cause it's become.
Varela and Lynskey, fifth-graders at Riverside Elementary, went to Karen Johnson, their teacher, after they saw a news report about poor kids in other countries. With the help of organizations like World Food Program USA and the Jimmy Carter Center, Riverside has raised more than $2,000 for kids in Nairobi, Kenya through a program called Coins4Kids.
Johnson's class, spearheaded by Varela and Lynskey, accounted for $400, and they helped spread the idea to the eight other fifth-grade classes.
"We didn't think it would catch on that well at first with other classes," Varela said. "People always feel bad, but don't really do anything about it. But now we're actually doing something to help them."
The success of the program has caused the duo to re-think their end of February closing date.
"It makes me feel really good that we're actually helping save lives," Lynskey said. "Because people were dying, and we're helping, and it makes me feel like I can do pretty much anything."
Johnson, who has taught for 27 years, said she's never seen two kids develop this kind of project, much less watch it spread to the rest of the grade.
Riverside Principal Craig Barlow has made community service a priority in the school, but like Johnson said, Varela and Lynskey have surpassed his expectations.
Through the World Food Program, DVDs of kids in Nairobi were sent to explain the need for funding, and how the money was used to help in school and to fight hunger.
Measurements were given to explain the impact. Varela said. For example, one cup of coins could feed two children for an entire school year, and 25 cents feeds one child for one day. Fifty dollars could feed one child for an entire school year.
Some of the impact can be seen on YouTube at a channel called "Molly's World," which follows the daily life of a girl who received food from the World Food Program.
"I think that's what made them so excited, because they could see the benefits," Johnson said.