Spanish Club teams up with Nelson County school, project helps El Salvadoran children attend school

Posted on December 10, 2007 by Suzanne Ramsey

Sweet Briar’s Spanish Club has joined forces with students at Tye River Elementary School to help to send El Salvadoran children to school.

Allie Garrison ’10, a member of the Spanish Club and a Spanish/education licensure major, said the collaboration came about in October when she visited the Nelson County school for a fair benefiting the local Hispanic community.

At the event, Garrison spoke with Jonna Clarkson, guidance counselor at Tye River and a 1970 graduate of Sweet Briar. Clarkson told her that Tye River students are collecting change through a project dubbed “TRES KREATES CHANGE” to enable children in El Salvador to go to school.

TRES is “Tye River Elementary School,” KREATES is an acronym for “Kids Raising Empathy and Awareness Towards Education in El Salvador” and CHANGE is change, both the transformation and the pocket varieties.

Clarkson, who visits a family in Taura, El Salvador twice a year with her husband, John, told Garrison about the deplorable living conditions there that prevent most children from attending school.

“Our first visit was absolutely life changing!” Clarkson said later in an e-mail to SBC college relations. “We had read about people like this who basically live outside and live like people here may have lived 300 years ago: whole families in small, one-room homes with dirt floors, no electricity, bath and kitchen outside, cooking over firewood or charcoal, serious lack of water, surviving on one meal a day and only if they work.”

Children go to work at a young age, she said, and parents don’t make enough money to buy the uniforms, shoes, books and other supplies needed for school. “Poverty is perpetuated.”

Since that time, Clarkson and her church, Bethany United Methodist in Norwood, have stepped in, raising money to build a church/community center for classes, church services and community outreach.

When students at Tye River found out about the project, they wanted to help, too, and “TRES KREATES CHANGE” was born. Last year, the students raised $2,100, enough to send seven El Salvadoran children to school for a year. They also collected toys and other items to send as Christmas gifts.

Garrison, who hails from the Nelson County community of Shipman and is doing field research at Tye River, was “deeply touched” by Clarkson’s story and offered help from the Spanish Club.

“The money we raise will go to a scholarship fund that helps children in El Salvador go to school and to pay for expenses, such as uniforms,” she said. “It will also help to finish building a church which they will use as a refuge in times of need as well as for services.”

So far, the Spanish Club has collected $42.65 in change from Sweet Briar faculty, staff and students. In addition, the club is planning an April bazaar during which they will collect clothing, blankets, coins and children’s books.

For more information, contact Garrison at