Oak Knoll Senior Runs to Raise Funds for Children in Need
For the past two years, the pandemic may have halted efforts to travel to Guatemala, however this didn’t stop Olivia O’Malley ’22 of Summit, NJ, from doing what she can from home to help impoverished children in need.
For the third summer in a row, O’Malley is partnering with School the World, a nonprofit organization committed to solving extreme poverty through the power of education.
O’Malley is participating in School the World’s fundraising challenge this month called “Together Rising” – which will fund a free service trip to the highest fundraiser, and the fundraiser who accumulates the most donors.
O’Malley has set a goal to run a mile for every $100 she raises through the end of August, hoping to run 50 miles to raise a total of $5,000 for School the World.
Interest in School the World began during O’Malley’s freshman year after hearing an upper class school presentation about the organization and their mission.
Then, during the summer of 2019, O’Malley traveled on a School the World 10-day service trip to Quiché, an indigenous village in Guatemala to build a school and playground for the community.
“My favorite part of my 2019 service trip was interacting with the children,” said O’Malley. “Every day, we played with them during their recess for about an hour. I also really enjoyed teaching them English — they were very eager learners! I became very attached to one boy, in particular named Diego. He brightened up our long days with constant laughter and hugs. On the last day of our trip, I promised him I would come back to the village and see him again.”
O’Malley made plans to travel to the same village through School the World until COVID halted her plans in 2020 and again this summer.
However, O’Malley hasn’t let COVID block her from helping the children she first met in Guatemala. During the past two summers, she’s organized running fundraisers, raising a total of $20,000 ($10,000 in 2019 and again in 2020). These proceeds directly benefitted children in need via School the World.
“Sadly, I’ve had to miss the service trip for the past two summers due to the pandemic, but my commitment to raise money for the children there has remained,” said O’Malley. “This year, funds are needed more than ever. The pandemic has been particularly hard on rural Central American communities with many children dropping out of school altogether to start work or families instead.”
For O’Malley, helping others in need has been inspirational and has expanded her love of service, one of Oak Knoll School’s core school values.
In addition to School the World, O’Malley helps her family run the annual “Leveling the Playing Field” used sports equipment drive, which distributes needed supplies to schools who have limited funds for equipment. She also volunteers regularly in Summit through the TryCAN peer mentor program, teaching yoga and cooking for children with developmental disabilities.
“I hope to teach my friends and others the gift of helping others,” said O’Malley, who plans on continuing to volunteer as a chaperone with School the World after high school. “This experience has been so gratifying, and I feel like I was the one who received a gift.”
O’Malley said, “I learned the value of hard work, and seeing a project come together. I made intense bonds with the people on my program and learned about another culture. The experience truly opened my eyes and made me even more grateful for my education and the opportunities I have at Oak Knoll.”