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Iowa Family Forgoes Christmas Gifts to Donate to School in Zambia

DES MOINES, Iowa — A Newton family’s generosity is paying off again for people living in an African village.

Over the summer we introduced you to a River Miller, a 10-year-old boy on a mission to raise thousands of dollars to help build a well for a community in Zambia.

River’s “Heavenly Hot Dogs” raised more than $4,500 to provide clean water and feed a nearby village.

The family collectively decided to forgo Christmas gifts for each other and instead donate to a school in the Kalonga village.

Janelle Miller said when she visited Africa to deliver their donations the first time, she also visited the Kalonga village and asked them to take her to see their schoolhouse.

Miller said the children and their teacher didn’t have any supplies and were sitting on a dirt floor, so the Miller family decided they wanted to change that for Christmas.

“In America we are always talking about classroom sizes and how the smaller the classroom the better the interaction. Well, they’ve got 150 students for one teacher and no supplies and no desks and nothing. Literally nothing and just having seats to sit at, just having paper just having pencils, the simple stuff is going to change their lives,” Janelle Miller said.

The first round of donations was delivered to the village school this week.

The kids received school supplies, desks with a place to sit, food, water and even some cake to celebrate.

River Miller said he didn’t really mind not receiving a gift this year because he saw how happy the kids were receiving the gifts from his family.

“They don’t get anything like Christmas presents on Christmas or school supplies,” River Miller said.

James Miller said it meant the world to him to see his family come together and find joy in giving.

“For me, this is something that I wanted for a long time was to get my kids to understand that it is better to give than to receive. For them to actually do it, that was more of a Christmas present to me than anything is to see that kids having a giving heart is really important,” James Miller said.

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