Isabelle McPhee, a fourth-grade student at St. Andrew’s International Primary school, knows how fortunate she is. As she traveled to and from school, she would notice students who were less fortunate, and it struck a chord in the youngster. So, she decided to do something about it.
In the final term of her third-grade year, Isabelle began collecting school supplies with a view to doing her small part to assist others. She began by requesting support from her school community, which complied in support of her efforts. Then her parents Kenue and Keva McPhee got in on the action and worked with Isabelle to increase donations. As a family, they identified a recipient for the donations and Isabelle decided to donate the items collected to her father’s primary school alma mater – Uriah McPhee.
Accompanied by her father, Isabelle recently presented an assortment of school supplies and over a dozen gift certificates for the purchase of school uniforms at Sandy’s to Uriah McPhee Primary School Principal Pamela Armaly and school guidance counselor D’Anya Mortimer, who both commended Isabelle for her undertaking.
The donation also came at an opportune time as Hurricane Dorian had ravaged the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama as the academic year was set to get underway, displacing students, some of whom had to relocate to New Providence after having lost everything.
She noted that her donation wasn’t just in a relief effort, but to help everyone that needed it.
“I just felt I had finally done something helpful,” said Isabelle.
Making the donation was a no-brainer for her. She believes in helping others, and believes if her peers who are less fortunate have the right school supplies to assist in learning it could only help the country long-term, resulting in a better Bahamas.
“On the way home, I usually see children walking home with tattered uniforms, and I thought about it – if we could give school supplies to them, maybe we could get higher GPAs (grade point averages). If we could make the average grade B or hopefully A, maybe we would have more skilled workers,” she said.
Her advice to her peers: “Use them (the school supplies) to learn with and it doesn’t matter how you learn with it, as long as you learn.”
The altruistic spirit is one she believes she gets from her parents. But she also looks up to her younger brother, Alexander, who, at age eight, she says, is a good person, even though he doesn’t like to give things away.
Her father clarified: “Alexander doesn’t like to give things away [because] he’s a hoarder, but he’s the kindest person. She (Isabelle) can get anything from him.”
McPhee was blown away by what his daughter accomplished, and proud of her as well.
“Amazingly, from a young age she said she wanted to make the world a better place. She got us (the family) into recycling … she wanted to start saving her allowance from two years ago to save the Rainforest.”
The youngster’s father said he’s impressed daily by her. And said even the effort and creativity she put into producing the flyers for her drive was impressive.
“She makes us proud,” he said. “As parents, we always say we have the best kids.”
As for her donation to his primary school alma mater, McPhee said it meant a lot to him, especially having attended the school and having first-hand knowledge of the deficiencies that remain in children that attend the school who live mainly in the Kemp Road area.
“I’m well aware of the needs of the kids that go to public school,” said McPhee.
Armaly said the supplies arrived at an opportune time as the school took in students from Abaco and Grand Bahama affected by Hurricane Dorian who would have priority from amongst the donated items. And that she was impressed that Isabelle was the organizer of such an effective project at her young age.
Mortimer, the school’s guidance counselor, said Isabelle’s donation has provided the school’s guidance department with a resource for disadvantaged students, allowing the school to provide them with school supplies relief, especially to the Abaco and Grand Bahama children who needed the assistance immediately. She also said they weren’t forgetting the New Providence students who are in need of assistance, and that they had quite a few students who do not attend school because of lack of uniforms and other resources. Mortimer said when students lack resources, that limits them in getting an education as they don’t attend school on a daily basis.
“You would be surprised at what would keep [a student] from coming through the door … ‘I don’t have lunch money; uniform not clean, don’t have text book or pencil.’”
The guidance counselor said Isabelle’s actions are of someone thinking outside of the box and being proactive.
“I like to know that she’s thinking not only of herself, but of others,” said Mortimer. “I feel as though she has a spirit of empathy, and sympathizes with others.”
During the donation, Mortimer said she took note of Isabelle’s gracious and kind demeanor which she said are virtues they try to express upon students at Uriah McPhee.
“One of the things we’re trying to practice with our kids is to spread kindness like confetti and she has shown kindness. I hope she continues with it,” said Mortimer.
At the school, their motto is “People need people”, and Isabelle’s donation falls into the school community’s ideals.
The guidance counselor also spoke to a conversation she had with Isabelle during the presentation and told her about her grandmother always telling her you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But that Isabelle said she believes that some difficulties children may have with learning may be due to having limited resources, which to her means they can’t learn the way she can, which was why she wanted to give the resources so that other children would have an opportunity to receive an education the way she would.
“In the government system we try to find other means of fundraising to get resources to facilitate needs.”
While she said the school can’t provide everything for students, Mortimer said donations like Isabelle’s help the school to provide some basic needs students may be missing. She said if they could get more donations in like Isabelle’s, they would have a bank of resources from which to pull for students even though parents are supposed to meet their children’s needs.
Mortimer said Isabelle’s donation is a perfect example to other children.
“We want our children to see that if we all care about and share with each other that we can make The Bahamas a better place, because every little bit counts and one small thing can make a difference in somebody’s life.”
The guidance counselor said the nine-year-old was the first person her age to make a donation to the school. Other donations, she said, have been from adults. Mortimer said they are planning to invite Isabelle back to the school at some point so that she could see where her resources were given and who made use of them.