Wheels in Tanzania

Last week’s Interact fundraiser will directly benefit the lives of people who live half a world away.


Janellen Lombardi

Interact officers Angel Qu, Ava Eichelberger, and Sophie Azar with Michelle Bailey a Rotarian who coordinates opportunities with Build-a-Chair

Shuban Tiwari, Staff Writer

When Interact officer and North Allegheny senior Ava Eichelberger attended the Interact District Conference in October, she didn’t know what to expect. In her second year as a club officer, her understanding of the service organization’s mission was evolving. In the words of Rotary International, the parent organization of Interact, the club is dedicated to “take action, build international understanding, and make new friends around the world.”

“Interact club has been a strong community for me ever since my sophomore year. it has allowed me to connect with a diverse group of individuals and has allowed me to become both a more involved local community member and global citizen,” Eichelberger said.

At the conference, Eichelberger was touched by one specific service project: Build-A-Chair. It’s a fundraiser dedicated to raising money to build wheelchairs for disabled individuals in Tanzania, and everything is sourced locally. The labor, materials, and everything else involved with the process are sourced within Tanzania, in the hope of economically revitalizing and stabilizing the country.

Keystone Rotary Club

In addition, it’s more efficient and economically viable to build wheelchairs within Tanzania. Wheelchairs can cost thousands of dollars to build in the States, but in Tanzania? $260. Doctors work alongside the laborers to address the individual needs of each wheelchair recipient. For example, the wheelchair may need an in-built desk, if the recipient is a learning and growing student. 

When Eichelberger learned of the specifics, she knew she had to bring the project to North Allegheny.

After a series of online meetings with various organizational leaders and conversations with her fellow officers, Eichelberger successfully invited a speaker, Michelle Bailey of the Keystone Rotary Club, to one of NA Interact’s meetings, where the speaker offered more information about the Build-A-Chair project. 

Last week, North Allegheny students had the opportunity to contribute to the fundraiser. During homeroom, students were offered the opportunity to donate money to the cause, and each day of the week was dedicated to an act of kindness, including writing postcards to refugees currently living in Pittsburgh and thanking teachers who have made a difference in students’ lives.

“These small acts of kindness have a contagious effect,” club sponsor and GOAL teacher Janellen Lombardi said. “When someone does something nice for you, you want to give back. That was our goal, and–no matter how small your efforts–we appreciate that so many teachers and students got involved.”

The fundraiser was part of a weeklong event, titled Five InterActs of Kindness,  which was designed to raise awareness of Rotary’s seven main goals — Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution, Disease Prevention and Treatment, Water and Sanitation, Maternal and Child Health, Basic Education and Literacy, and Economic and Community Development, Environment. 

“I was inspired by Mrs. Bailey’s initiative and knew if everyone at NASH donated just one dollar, we would be able to change the lives of so many individuals,” Eichelberger said.

These small acts of kindness have a contagious effect. When someone does something nice for you, you want to give back. That was our goal, and–no matter how small your efforts–we appreciate that so many teachers and students got involved.

— Mrs. Lombardi, NA Interact sponsor

Along with Lombardi and NASH senior Sophie Azar, Eichelberger managed an impactful fundraiser, raising $853, which amounts to more than three wheelchairs for individuals in Tanzania. The leading homeroom was math teacher Mrs. Volpe class, who raised $95.

But the initiative was ultimately about much more than money.

“Essentially, what we hoped to show was that everyone’s small efforts can add up to a lot,” Lombardi said. “We challenged students at NASH and NAI to do one small act each day to see how we might make a difference in our school, community, and world.”