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How can old batteries save a life? Ask North Leasiders Lauren & Helena

Friends Lauren Essaye and Helena Giamos with their collection efforts Photo by: Katherine Ross.

Friends Lauren Essaye and Helena Giamos with their collection efforts. Photo by: Katherine Ross.

If you knew that every AA battery had enough zinc to save the lives of six children, you might think twice before disposing of your used AAs. Lauren Essaye and Helena Giamos are two 11-year-old North Leasiders who learned this last fall and didn’t take the news lying down.

The “Zinc Saves Lives” Battery Recycling Campaign started with Teck Resources, a B.C. mining company which teamed up with WE Day for a good cause. A project dedicated to a better tomorrow, WE Day celebrates youth leadership and inspires tens of thousands of students across Canada, America and England to continue making positive change. Helena attended WE Day Toronto last October and became inspired by a local girl who had collected 10,000 batteries to help save children in developing countries. That night Helena came home and told her friend everything. By morning, Lauren was on board and their plan to start their own Zinc Saves Lives campaign was underway.

Zinc deficiency affects two billion people globally, and nearly 450,000 children die annually due to complications from lack of zinc. Each year since 2011, Teck Resources has donated the equivalent value of zinc from all batteries donated to UNICEF which in turn provides zinc tablets to children in need. This year, all zinc donations will go to children in Kenya.

“Zinc is important to the immune system, heart, lungs and other functions of the body,” said Helena, adding that many children don’t get enough in developing countries as a result of relying on their mostly plant-based diet.

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The girls went canvasing in their neighbourhoods throughout the fall of their Grade 6 year, collecting batteries and promoting their campaign from house to house. They have since collected 9,500 batteries toward their 15,000 goal and going full-steam ahead for the second semester round-up. Aside from keeping supporters updated through their Facebook page facebook.com/HelenaLaurenSaveLives/, they have plans for more footwork as well. Both agree they want to improve their campaign with updated posters and flyers, “to get people pumped up about new things happening with the campaign.” They’ll also be going door-to-door to collect more batteries and raise more awareness.

Helena atends Branksome Hall and has a drop-box there with a possible school presentation in the works to spread the word. Lauren, a Northlea student, is currently in talks with her principal about setting up a drop-box and raising awareness through a future presentation herself.

Another goal for the girls is to get more local businesses involved by hosting drop-boxes. So far, things are looking good. Turning Pointe Academy of Dance at 105 Vanderhoof Ave., Grill Time Gourmet Meat Shop at 62 Laird Dr., The Leaside Pub at 190 Laird Dr., and Home Hardware at Sunnybrook Plaza (Bayview & Eglinton) have all agreed to host drop-boxes for used battery drop-offs. Storage Mart has donated the boxes. The campaign will run until August 31, 2017 so keep your eyes peeled as more local merchants get on board to help these young leaders save lives.