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Dearing Elementary School students raise enough money for three bikes in Africa

Life just became a little easier for some Zambians thanks to a group of fourth graders in Dearing.

Mary Chandler Echols, Ashley Coleman, Kasi Radford, Ashlee Retheford, Alexis Jamaica and Elia Muniz held a raffle at the Dearing Mayfest and raised enough money to buy bicycles for poor people in a rural village of Zambia, Africa.

The girls became aware of the need when Ackim Chali, a Gospelink preacher, visited Dearing Elementary to tell about his life and work in Zambia. Elia said she loved when the preacher visited because otherwise she never would've known about life in Africa, where the people live in houses with dirt floors, have no electricity or running water and no transportation or free public education.

"(Providing bicycles is) one of the best ways that you can reach the people," said Gladys Rodgers, who is a DES business partner and a supporter of the Gospelink ministry. "The people over there are very, very poor... It's very primitive."

As a church planter in Africa with 30 ministers and churches under his jurisdiction, Pastor Chali's own bicycle sees a lot of mileage.

"He's constantly on the road and traveling," Ms. Rodgers said. "And if somebody is sick, he lets them use his bicycle to take their sick loved one to the doctor. Also, somebody is constantly wanting to borrow his bicycle for something."

Mary Chandler, who initiated the raffle, said she was excited to hear they raised $225, which is enough for three bicycles in Africa. The raffle, called Bucks for Bikes, allowed people to purchase a ticket for $1 and be entered in a drawing to receive one-third of the total earnings while two-thirds would be given to Pastor Chali. Mary Chandler said the winning ticket had Pastor Chali's name written on it, so he received 100 percent of the earnings.

"I was just shocked," she said. "It's so exciting."

The girls presented the check to Gospelink President Lewis Nelms on Monday, May 21.

Mrs. Rodgers said she welcomes the girls to do Bucks for Bikes again at next year's Mayfest, even if they choose a different minister to send the money to.

"Well, it'll be a lot easier because we'll already know what to do," Mary Chandler said.

Web posted on Thursday, June 14, 2007

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