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Helena and Lauren saving lives one used battery at a time

Lauren Essaye and Helena Giamos -ANDREA FREEDMAN

Lauren Essaye and Helena Giamos -ANDREA FREEDMAN

– by Andrea Freedman –

When eleven-year-old Helena Giamos and her best friend Lauren Essaye learned of all the children living in Third World countries who were dying because of a lack of nutrients —specifically zinc— the Grade 6 Leaside students decided to do something about it.

Things some of us take for granted are those that children in Third World countries desperately need in order to survive.  Many of these children suffer from a lack of water and their diets are limited to mostly plants and grains, foods which are short of an essential ingredient for human health, zinc.

Zinc, a common component of nearly all batteries such as those you might use for a flashlight, is usually ingested by eating meat and fish but without the minerals found in these foods many children under the age of five suffer from severe vomiting, diarrhea and an overall weakened immune system, often resulting in death.

Lauren Essaye and Helena Giamos -ANDREA FREEDMAN

Lauren Essaye and Helena Giamos -ANDREA FREEDMAN

“Kids our age are unfortunately dying and we are so lucky we’re not those kids,” Helena said in an interview, “so we want to help make sure that they have a healthy lifestyle.”

Helena was first made aware of the problem when she attended WE Day in October, 2016.  WE Day (put on annually internationally by the former Free The Children charity founded by Craig Kielburger now known as WE Charity) inspires students to take social action and to give back, getting involved in their communities to change their own lives as well as the lives of others who are less fortunate than they are.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/HelenaLaurenSaveLives/

Visit https://www.facebook.com/HelenaLaurenSaveLives/

One of the participants at the event was a girl who had collected 10,000 batteries to donate to UNICEF, which has an arrangement with a company named Teck Resources that sees the firm donate the value of the zinc for each battery it receives to UNICEF, which in turn provides zinc tablets to children overseas.

After Helena told Lauren about how recycled batteries could be used as a source of zinc for malnourished people the pair decided they wanted to start a battery recycling program of their own and the Helena and Lauren’s Batteries Save Lives Campaign was born a few days later.

In order to promote the campaign, Helena’s teacher at Branksome Hall helped spread the word around her school.  The pair launched a Facebook page devoted to the campaign and Lauren spent a week doing daily announcements at her Northlea Elementary and Middle School.  On one of the days Helena made a guest appearance so that the girls could explain together to the other students what the battery recycling program is all about and how it helps kids around the world.  The yearbook photographer at Lauren’s school posted a message on the school’s website in order to help promote the campaign.

The easiest batteries to extract zinc from are Double-A and Triple-A batteries, the girls explained to East York Chronicle. Helena also spoke with excitement about some of the many ways that zinc can save lives, such as helping with brain and lung development, heart health and strengthening the immune system.

Lauren and Helena’s enthusiasm is contagious and Leaside community members have been eager to help out.  One of Helena’s neighbors works at a hospital and collects old batteries that operate the IV machines and thermometers.  He fills up a big tub on the average of about once a month and delivers it to one of the several drop-off spots the girls have established in the Leaside area.

Businesses throughout Leaside such as Home Hardware, Home Depot, Leaside Pub and Crazy Turning Point Dance Academy, as well as the girls’ schools, happily participate in the drop-off program.  Both of their school offices regularly receive full bins from parents who send their kids to school with used batteries to donate to the cause.

Spending time with Lauren and Helena and learning about the effort they have put in to this life-saving program and their genuine desire to give back was nothing short of inspirational.  It was refreshing to meet kids who, at such a young age, know the importance of showing gratitude for their own good fortune.

They are a great example to other kids in their community and they are going strong.  So far they have collected 18,500 batteries, which they calculate has helped to save 111,000 lives over the past six months.

“It feels good because we know we’re making progress in the world,” Helena said.  One day, she said she is hoping she can go to one of the countries receiving the zinc supplements “to see a kid whose life we’ve saved.”

Lauren echoed her friend’s sentiment, saying “We really want to see all those kids.  They’re probably cute.  It is sad to see those people dying.”

Lauren and Helena’s battery recycling campaign runs until the end of August but they plan to get involved again next fall when Teck starts the program up again.  As the zinc from even one battery can save the lives of six children, their hard work and devotion is clearly making a difference.

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