Misawa kids dig deep to help Baghdad zoo
Stars and Stripes June 9, 2003
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Some came bearing plastic sandwich bags full of allowance money.
Others just dug into their pockets looking for that elusive folded dollar bill.
But kids at Sollars Elementary School didn’t mind donating money to help sometimes-overlooked victims of the war in Iraq: the Baghdad zoo’s starving animals.
Teacher Mike Tate organized the one-day fund drive and built it around the sale of healthy foods animals themselves would eat.
“Bags of peanuts, popcorn, raisins and carrots went for 25 or 50 cents,” said Tate. “Last year, we held a bake sale, but teachers wanted it to be centered on something healthier this time, since I’m always pushing healthy eating habits.”
Sixth-grader Dustin Coleman, 12, said he had two reasons for thinking that donating money to the zoo was a nifty idea.
“The animals are starving, and I like peanuts,” he said holding a bag of them.
Fellow classmate Brandon Piol, also 12, picked up a sack of popcorn from a table.
“The animals over there were treated badly,” he said as he waited for change.
Tate said during the “anarchy” in Baghdad after American troops entered the city, animals in the city’s zoo were left to fend for themselves.
“Lions were paraded down the street, and snakes were taken out of their cages,” he said. “There was some pretty sad stories.”
Last year, Tate netted $740 for the Kabul zoo in Afghanistan — part of $500,000 sent there by the North Carolina Zoological Society.
The year before that, Tate had students study the plight of the orangutan in Borneo, and a three-month fund raising effort at the school raised $2,200.
“They need about $1 million to get the Baghdad zoo going again,” he said of his latest cause. “I truly believe if you teach children they can make a difference, there’s a payoff in more ways than one.”
Between children’s coins and checks from Sollars’ staffers, Tate said the Baghdad fund drive netted $640.