Tricia Ritter is not a typical teen.
The Hart seventh-grader has chosen to forego birthday gifts this year in favor of having friends and family donate to her favorite charity that provides schooling for African girls.
“I already have enough stuff,” Tricia said. “The girls in Africa can’t go to school, so I wanted to raise money for the girls who don’t have very good lives and can’t go to school.”
Tricia will celebrate her 13th birthday on Oct. 26. She’ll have a slumber party with all the trappings, but she’s asked her friends to make donations in leiu of gifts to Camfed, the Campaign for Female Education.
“I was floored when she came to me,” mom Cathy Ritter said. “This is completely her idea. It came out of the blue. Her Uncle Joe went to Africa to work with Camfed a few years ago. It stuck with her.”
Uncle Joe is Joe Streng, who’s married to Cathy Ritter’s sister. Streng worked at a San Francisco public relations firm that did pro bono work for Camfed. He was in charge of the account and visited Zambia four years ago to see Camfed’s efforts in action. The average family earns a mere $1 a day, not nearly enough to pay for every child’s education.
“They have to make some really tough choices about which child to send to school,” Streng said. “Most of the time, the child they choose to send to school is the boy because boys have greater job prospects after school. For many of these girls, the seventh grade is the end of their education.”
In Zambia, education is free through the seventh grade, but students must supply their own school uniforms, notebooks and pens. Students who can’t afford the proper uniform or supplies are not allowed to attend school, which prohibits poor families from educating their children.
After seventh grade, school costs $24 a year for eighth and ninth grades and up to $75 a year for high school. Boarding school for all grades can cost up to $240 a year.
“For what Tricia is doing, she has the potential to send hundreds of girls to school,” Streng said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Tricia’s birthday wish fits right in with the character education touted by Hart and the entire Pleasanton community. The six character traits students are encouraged to exhibit are respect, integrity, responsibility, compassion, self-discipline and honesty.
“Tricia clearly demonstrates all six of these important traits with her decision to give up her birthday presents for the sake of less fortunate children around the world,” Vice Principal Tom Domer said. “She should be very proud of herself.”
Tricia has already raised nearly $300 for Camfed through her secure online donation page. She has not set goal, but instead is merely reaching for the stars.
“I just want to raise as much money as I can,” Tricia said. “I’m glad that people keep helping me with the fund.”
“I’ve told my friends what Camfed is all about, and they think it’s really cool,” she added. “If I didn’t get to go to school, I don’t know what I would do. It would be really nice if all of the (African) girls could go to school.”
Streng also has an October birthday, and Tricia’s gift to him was the announcement that she would raise money for his favorite charity.
“I was really touched by it, but I also was so amazed that a girl in the seventh grade would make such a gesture,” Streng said. “What’s great about this is not just what Tricia is doing, but how one person can make a decision that will have an impact on a lot of people on the other side of the world. It’s pretty cool that a little girl in Pleasanton can make a decision that will help a lot of girls the same age as her in Africa.”
Joe Streng in Zambia, September 2007
Posted Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011