Students at Holy Cross School in South Portland raised more than $1,400 to help support students at a sister school in Zimbabwe during a special “Penny Wars” event held during the recent Maine Catholic Schools Week.

The goal was for the kids to race from room to room with bags of coins in hand and dump as many pennies as they could into specially marked jars, according to Dave Guthro, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

Although silver coins and paper money were welcome, the goal was for each classroom to collect as many pennies as possible, since only the number of pennies counted for the competition.

For 10 minutes each morning during Maine Catholic Schools Week, students at Holy Cross were allowed to run from classroom to classroom in an effort to win the Penny Wars.

The idea was for each classroom to put the most pennies in their classroom jar and then fill other classroom jars with silver coins and paper money, which were then deducted from each classroom’s total.

However, all the money raised, from pennies through $20 bills, was sent to the Ngamo Primary School in Zimbabwe, Guthro said.

Students and their families at Holy Cross School adopted the Ngamo school after Principal Christine L’Abbe? visited the area on an African safari last year.

In addition to sending letters, cards and school supplies, Holy Cross students have also raised money to help the kids attending Ngamo Primary School pay their school fees.

The fees are $10 a trimester per pupil and that figure if often too high for many families in the village to afford.

That fact drove the kids at Holy Cross, according to seventh-grader Dominic Borrelli, who said, “The money helps the kids in Zimbabwe in such a big way. Twenty dollars, that’s two trimesters for a child.”

Sixth-grader Abby Jennings said that while the Penny Wars fundraiser was for a good cause, it was also “a lot of fun. Everyone competes with each other. It’s my favorite part of Catholic Schools Week.”

In addition to the students at Holy Cross, the staff also got into the spirit of the event, with at least one teacher bribing kids with lollipops to discourage them from putting paper money into the collection jar in his classroom.

Another teacher, Bill Ridge, kept a list of all the students who put large amounts of silver coins and paper money in his classroom’s jar, which led to extra laps at basketball practice, eighth-grader Sean Sullivan said.

Eighth-grader Zack DiCelico summed up the point of Penny Wars when he said, “We are so privileged (here) and we want (the kids in Africa) to be able to go to school and learn. We have fun and help other kids at the same time. We couldn’t ask for a better activity.”

James Vorias, a first-grader at Holy Cross School in South Portland, is ready to take part in the school’s Penny Wars fundraiser.Amalia Reight watches over the penny jar in her second-grade classroom during the Penny Wars event held at Holy Cross School in South Portland recently.A staffer at Holy Cross School in South Portland counts up change collected by students at the school to help pay the school fees for children at the Ngamo Primary School in Zimbabwe.

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