Larchmont Students Fight for World Health

LARCHMONT, N.Y. -- Students from Kay Kobbe's 2001 third-grade class founded Kids For World Health, an organization that reaches far beyond her Chatsworth Avenue classroom.

KFWH is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that raises money and awareness for curable diseases that kill thousands in third-world countries that can't afford the available treatments. The group was founded by kids and is run by kids, said Patrice Schwartz, a retired kindergarten teacher at Murray Avenue who helped start a chapter at her school soon after 2001.

"It's wonderful because it's really run by kids," said Schwartz, who remains a chapter leader at Murray. "We're advisors, the adults. Some advisors are parents, and some advisors are teachers at school. But we always check in with the founders, in terms of what their goals are."

By "the founders," Schwartz means the students from that 2001 third-grade class, who are now freshman in college and act as the planning board for the year's projects. When Kobbe, who is now retired and the president of the KFWH Board of Directors, had them as students, a lesson about Africa motivated them to help those suffering from curable diseases.

"They learned about some of the diseases, like sleeping sickness, and it sort of outraged the children," Schwartz said. "They were so upset by it that they decided to try to do something about it."

For the past 10 years, those same students have carried the cause and worked with the World Health Organization (WHO), to identify where the greatest need is. During that time, they have funded five clinics for the treatment of diseases including buruli ulcer, chagas, leishmaniasis, and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) in developing countries.

"I thought it was such a unique mission since it was started from children who were motivated enough to make a difference in the lives of children who are living so far away from Larchmont," said Linda Flinn, a teacher at Murray Avenue who helped Schwartz found the school's chapter.

The fifth clinic opened in Bodo, Chad this past October and services about 100,000 villagers, according to the KFWH Holiday Newsletter. Similarly, a KFWH clinic in Lwala, Uganda services about 100,000 villagers.

Lwala, Uganda villagers will soon also benefit from $400,000 worth of hospital and operating room equipment. After raising $23,000 dollars, KFWH partnered with Project Cure to donate those supplies to Lwala Hospital, which is expected to arrive in the poor village Jan. 20. Fundraising efforts included all chapters, which now include all Mamaroneck schools, Harrison Middle School and high school, and even one in France.

KFWH works with the WHO, which keeps them informed on what and where the immediate needs are. The "founders" and advisors discuss them and make a plan on how to utilize any funds raised each year.  In 2012, KFWH is targeting chagas disease, a parasitic disease carried by beetle-like vectors that affects the heart, colon, and/or the intestinal tract. This disease is potentially fatal if not treated and most prevalent in Central America.

Tax-exempt donations can be sent to PO Box 557, Larchmont, New York, 10538. For more information click here.

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