The word of the week at the Calverton School was “compassion,” and two siblings were recognized for demonstrating it.
Calverton fourth-grader Joseline Pretto Simmons and her brother, second-grader Jeremie, of Chesapeake Beach were recognized at a lower school assembly Nov. 30 for volunteer work they did on a trip to Haiti in June.
Their mother, Nance Pretto Simmons, said she and her two children went to the Caribbean country for two weeks with the Silver Spring-based group HavServe Volunteer Service Network. She said she found the group online and found it appealing, as it let children attend and be active on the mission work. She said she had to pay for the three of them to make the journey. While there, she said, her children helped with a literacy empowerment program, a soccer team and a music development program.
“I was so proud of them. It was amazing to see how they transformed. They were kind of nervous at first, and I think when they left, they wanted to take everybody home with them,” she said.
At the assembly, attended by students in grades one through five, the brother and sister showed a YouTube video of pictures from their trip. They also passed around a few items they brought home, including some Haitian coins, dollars and seashells.
“It was a really good experience. They don’t have a lot, but they’re still really thankful people,” said Joseline, 9. The children she met in Haiti seemed very grateful for school and water, even if it meant traveling far for both, she said.
She said her favorite part of the project was introducing the kids to things such as Silly String, jump-rope, makeup, nail polish and Frisbee. Joseline said the toughest part was “to see people live in tents and see people not have food.”
While in Haiti, Joseline also said she read books to children and asked them whether they enjoyed what she had just read.
“Whoever liked it the best, we gave [the book] to them,” Joseline said.
Jeremie, 7, said his favorite part was the food and playing. “I went to a waterfall,” he said.
The siblings received two lollipops from Calverton fifth-graders BriNae David and Mikayla Davis.
“They showed an excellent example of compassion,” Mikayla said. “They went to Haiti and helped the kids in need.”
Joseline told her classmates she was holding a fundraiser for the children in Haiti, and for $10, the students would be entered to win a ticket to “Disney on Ice.”
Calverton Lower School head Mary Margaret King was proud of the example the siblings set.
“I don’t think we could have a better example of compassion than Josi and Jeremie and what they did,” she said.
Nance Pretto Simmons said she hopes to return to Haiti with her children and eventually start a children’s library there.