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Volunteer efforts help, teach Raleigh boys about needy classmates

Posted July 8

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— When she learned that students she tutored at Wiley International Studies Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh were going hungry, Ilina Ewen was moved to help, and to teach her sons a lesson at the same time.

Ewen's sons were elementary students themselves when she and a group of moms brought the BackPack Buddies program to Wiley back in 2010.

"The more kids I tutored, the more I realized that several of them were hungry," she said.

She saw first-hand the difference the program can make. It provides bags of weekend meals to children from food-insecure homes during the school year.

"Her focus was so much better," Ewen said of one student. "I really noticed a difference from second grade to third grade to fourth grade. Her mom said, 'We need this food. This is what helps her focus in school.'"

As her own sons grow, Ewen has continued her commitment. She brought BackPack Buddies to Ligon Middle School last fall, and her sons help pack and deliver the bags to dozens of students.

11-year-old Neal donated his birthday money to BackPack Buddies.

"It feels good to know I'm doing good in my school, and I know it affects all the kids and helps them do better in school," Neal Ewen said.

Ilina Ewen says her family is fortunate, and fighting hunger first-hand is a powerful lesson for her children.

"What we take for granted is commensurate with what we should give back," she said.

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