The Christmas Carnival at Leamington, Ont.’s Queen of Peace Catholic School helped raise $5,000 for a girls school in Kenya. That amount has tripled with matching grants. Photo courtesy of Queen of Peace School

Nelly Furtado helps out on donation that kept on growing

By  Erin Morawetz, The Catholic Register
  • June 29, 2012

Students and staff at Queen of Peace Catholic Elementary School in Leamington, Ont., have 15,000 reasons to celebrate.

That’s how many dollars the school’s efforts have raised for a clean water system at a new all-girls secondary school in the Maasai region of Kenya. 

After the students raised $5,000 during their Clean Water campaign, a component of Free the Children’s Adopt a Village program, they learned their efforts were matched, not once, but twice.

The first match came from Canadian singer Nelly Furtado, an ambassador of Free the Children, who has started a challenge grant for youth around the world. Every dollar that is raised for the Maasai region of Kenya, she will match — and so Queen of Peace’s $5,000 doubled to $10,000.

For Andrea Niven Pannunzio, a teacher at Queen of Peace and the head of their missions committee, this came as quite a nice surprise.

“This is something (Furtado) has taken upon herself,” Niven Pannunzio said.

But it was this Grade 8 teacher who took it upon herself to apply on behalf of the school for the Big Dreamers Award, a program through Free the Children sponsored by Disney’s Club Penguin and the National Bank of Canada. Successful applicants for the award, who are fundraising for an Adopt a Village campaign, also have their donations matched dollar for dollar.

Queen of Peace was one of about 300 applicants for the Big Dreamers Award along with other schools and community groups. About 200 of them, including Queen of Peace, will have the money they’ve raised matched.

Caring Gibner, manager of educational campaigns and resource development at Free the Children, says this award acknowledges how hard schools work to fundraise for different causes.

“The award encourages (students) to dream big and to aim high and to know that their efforts will be matched and honoured,” Gibner said.

Gibner told The Catholic Register that Niven Pannunzio wrote in her successful application that “the spirit of generosity and the desire to make a difference had become a way of life in (her) school,” a statement that could not be more true.

Queen of Peace raised its original $5,000 through a variety of fundraising events, the biggest of which was the Christmas Carnival, organized and run by the Grade 8 students.

Adriana Abbas, one of those students, said the experience of fundraising for Free the Children gave her an “unforgettable feeling of happiness.”

“I don’t know why, but it felt like I saved a life and made someone in the world smile,” Abbas wrote in an e-mail. “The best part is that we had fun and made it a remarkable memory, something that will be in our hearts forever.”

For more on Free the Children, see

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.