Green Bay students donate pennies for education overseas

GREEN BAY – Students from Red Smith Elementary School in Green Bay are raising money for education overseas.

And while the charity has been criticized, others say it is doing good work.

The fourth graders raised more than $1,700 to help build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

They reached out to parents and local businesses.

“It was just like really awesome that we could raise that much money and I think we’re all really proud because we did thing that we didn’t think we could do,” said Faith Frelich, student.

“I was really excited when we first decided to do this because I was just excited to be able to make a change and help people,” said Miyah Washington, student.

The students were inspired to raise money because of a book they read in class called Three Cups of Tea.

The money they raised will go to an organization associated with the book called Pennies for Peace.

The organization is a part of the Central Asia Institute which works to build schools in other countries.

Author Greg Mortenson is the co-founder of the Central Asia Institute.

Another author has accused him of fabricating information in his book.

Mortenson has said he stands by his book, but admits some changes were made in the timing of events.

Montana’s attorney general investigated the institution in 2012 and found it mishandled donation money.

As a result, Mortenson agreed to pay back $1 million to the charity fund.

But in his report, Montana’s attorney general also said “Despite the severity of their errors, CAI is worth saving.”

We checked with Wisconsin investigators, including the state’s attorney general’s office. They told us no complaints have been filed against the CAI.

Mortenson no longer heads the charity.

And the organization supplies financial reports on its website.

We’ve also reached out to the CAI…so far we haven’t heard back from them.

On Monday, the teacher I spoke with from Red Smith Elementary said she looked into CAI’s past and is comfortable with where the donation money is going.

For those interested in learning more about charities, there are websites that can help.

“I think it’s critical that donors do some research, that they dig deep into the charity performance and not just assume that because it’s a charity with a worthy mission that it’s doing good work or that it is efficient,” said Sandra Miniutti with Charity Navigator.

As for the students at Red Smith, they say they will continue to remember the message from the book… help build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan and educate young girls along the way.

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Since the story aired, CAI offered a response on March 5, 2014.

“CAI has always been dedicated to using supporter money to help improve the lives of people in the impoverished communities we serve. Recent improvements to our administrative, accounting, and operations functions (policies and procedures) only reinforce our ongoing capacity to be accountable for donor dollars,” said Karin Ronnow, worldwide communications director for the Central Asia Institute.

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