Fifteen second-graders took turns hauling a red wheelbarrow full of coins up Walker Avenue to the bank Friday, where they counted the money and prepared to wire it to a school in Sierra Leon, Africa.

Fifteen second-graders took turns hauling a red wheelbarrow full of coins up Walker Avenue to the bank Friday, where they counted the money and prepared to wire it to a school in Sierra Leone, Africa.

Judith Ann McBride's class at Willow Wind Community Learning Center have collected $360.51 in coins and $77 in bills for the African school that educates homeless and impoverished teens.

"It feels good to give to them, because they don't have much," said Maya Lackey, 8. "They only have one computer and not enough pens and paper. Some don't even have homes."

The students began raising money for the Empowering Children School a month ago, after learning about Africa all semester. As part of their lessons, the second-grade students corresponded with the Sierra Leone students via e-mail and video chat on the computer.

"At first it felt strange, because I'd never talked to them before," said Rainy Miatke, 8. "But then I got to like it and it was cool to hear about what their lives are like."

The Ashland children helped their parents collect stray coins from behind couch cushions and car seats, and also offered to do chores in exchange for money, McBride said.

"I think there's a real sense of accomplishment," McBride said. "They're very invested in this project."

Maya worked hard weeding her parents' garden to earn $12 in dimes, nickels and pennies, she said.

"It was worth it, because I needed to raise money for them so they can get things they need, like pens and pencils," she said.

It took four children to carry the largest jar of coins into the People's Bank on Siskiyou Boulevard Friday morning. There the students helped the bank employees pour the change into an automatic counter, and watched spellbound as the machine added up the money.

"It's at $130 right now!" a boy yelled.

"It's up to $150!" another reported.

When all the coins had been counted, McBride congratulated the class on how much money they had raised.

"That's over $400 so far," she said. "The students in Sierra Leone are really going to appreciate it."

The school will use the money to help pay for a new computer and build another school site to serve more children, McBride said.

"It's a very poor school," she said. "The goal is to try to get them some education, because otherwise they might not have any."

Willow Wind and Empowering Children are part of the International Education and Resource Network, which allows students from across the world to connect and learn about each other.

"I feel like the kids are learning from an authentic source what life is like in Africa," McBride said. "Our kids can't even imagine what a lot of these kids in Africa have gone through."

Maya said the best thing about learning about Africa was getting to talk to students there through video chat.

"It felt good to meet somebody else," she said. "And now that I know them, it feels good to help them, because I know they need the help."

McBride's class will continue to raise money for the next week, before wiring it to Africa, she said. Anyone who would like to donate can call Willow Wind at 541-488-2684.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.