Students from a pair of Billings Catholic Schools presented on Wednesday about $1,000 to a local nonprofit to help build an orphanage in Uganda.
Students at the St. Francis Primary and Intermediate schools began raising money for AIDSpirit USA, a Billings organization that helps area residents living with HIV/AIDS as well as providing support for Ugandans either infected with or affected by the disease, after Thanksgiving.
“The big thing for us is the kids see how to give to others that don't have what we have,” said Karen Petermann, the primary school's principal.
Each school raised about $500 over the past month. When a student at the primary school, which serves kindergarten through second grade, brought in a dollar, they were given a Lego block to put on a wall that signified a wall of the orphanage.
Wednesday morning, students at the primary school, 511 Custer Ave., met with AIDSpirit officials and learned a little about Uganda.
“It was fantastic,” said Kathy Hall, the group's presentations coordinator. “We have enough money now to, when our group goes over in February, lay the foundation. Forty kids will be able to stay there; it'll have a nice outdoor kitchen and a sleeping area with bunks.”
Petermann used the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to let the kids know the work they were doing was important, even it seems like it's a world away.
“He was the littlest one, shunned by the other reindeer,” she said. “But when they needed him, he was there. The moral of the story is no matter how small, everybody is a part of the team and we all make a difference.”
Hall said it costs about $40,000 to build the orphanage, which is expected to be finished within the next year. The building it will replace houses 14 kids in what amounts to a small two-bedroom home, she said.
“Our money goes a long way when we're there,” Hall said. “I'm pretty confident that it'll be done within a year. The schools helping just means everything for that.”