We have been fortunate to be supported by many wonderful organizations, one of which is St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. Father Martin has provided us with the opportunity to speak at 4 Masses this weekend. We want to thank the parishioners for their very generous support as they have donated 1,000’s of beautiful children’s books these past few years. We also want to reflect upon our growth, which we feel is like the parable of the Mustard Seed. We are of very small beginnings, but with humble faith, we continue to grow and make room for others to come rest in our branches.
Andre/Brooks: Good Morning.
My name is Andre /Brooks and Father Martin was kind enough to allow my friends and me to share with you the adventures of our community service book club, the Wonderland BookSavers.
We founded this children-for-children charity five years ago when I was eight years old. We began as a summer book club, and the first book we read was A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. After reading A Single Shard, we decided to create a banner with an inspiring quote from the book. This quote was, “Your mind knows that you are going to Songdo, but you must not tell your body. It must think, ‘one hill, one valley, one day at a time.’ It that way your spirit will not grow weary before you have even begun to walk.”
These words proved to be more true than we could have ever imagined.
Claire: We feel that expanding access to books will help to increase global literacy, allowing children to grow into adults that can have more meaningful lives, and will provide the opportunity for more people to follow Christ, through their ability to read the Bible. Our own reading of the Bible has taught us, “For I can do everything, through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.
The Wonderland BookSavers, now an official international 501(c)3 charity, began five years ago with the simple ambition of using literature and Christ’s love as an inspiration to serve our community.
Our initial goal was to donate 500 books to a local school. We have surpassed our expectations by donating over 140,000 books, 1,500 pairs of shoes and countless supplies including blankets, school supplies and Band-Aids to kids around the world.
With inspiration garnered from literature and from the love of Christ, we now regularly fill libraries in Haiti, Honduras, Peru, Ecuador, China, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. We do not neglect our immediate community, providing supplies to kids in Bridgeport, New Haven, Newtown, Massachusetts, Appalachia West Virginia and Tennessee.
We are extremely grateful to our adult partnering organizations. They provide shipping and trucking to remote locations.
Of course our most important partners are people such as yourselves, sitting right here at Mass today. The children that receive our donations, both locally and in South America and Africa are so grateful for your contributions. It is hard to understand sitting here in Fairfield today, but something as simple as lacking a pencil or a pair of shoes, can prevent an African child from attending school.
Maddie: We compare the growth of our charity to the parable of the mustard seed in the Bible, Matthew 13:31-32.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
We planted our seed with the simple step of taking action. With humility inspired by Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins, we have gratefully watched our seed grow.
In the process, we have learned some things that we had never imagined.
Do you know what a teacher does in Zimbabwe when she gets a new box of pencils? She breaks them all in half, so that every child can have one.
Did you know that many African children walk barefoot to school, sometimes 5 miles or more per day?
Did you know that Jesus lives in Zimbabwe? We received a package of drawings and letters this year from children in Zimbabwe, thanking us for their books, and every single letter referenced Jesus, saying, “May the Lord bless you for your kindness.” We truly felt blessed by their words.
The most important lesson we have learned is that charity does not have to involve collecting money.
In our society, we leave books on shelves collecting dust, we have old shoes that are “two sizes too small” cluttering up the back of our closets, we have random crayons, pencils, markers rolling around in our drawers. These are all opportunities to bring joy to a child.
We fill shoeboxes with Baggies filled with all kind of marking tools. One shoe box like this, (show box), contains enough school supplies for an entire classroom in Africa. Please help us continue our mission by simply gathering books, shoes and crayons you no longer need, and donating them so another person can enjoy these items.
Together, we can increase global literacy and help the mustard seed of faith and charity grow in our hearts.
Emma: We would like in turn to thank you, the parishioners of St. Thomas. You have been so exceeding generous these past two years, donating numerous children’s books, school supplies, pens and pencils. These gifts have been truly appreciated. In September 2015, Father Martin was kind enough to allow my friends and me to share with you the adventures of our community service book club, the Wonderland BookSavers. At that time we were proud to have donated over 30,000 books to children across the globe. Now, with the support of Father Martin and you, the parishioners of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, who have generously supported our efforts, we can say that together, with Jesus at our side, we are truly spreading the gift of literacy. In just the past 2 years we have shared over 100,000 books with over 500,000 children in over 14 poverty-stricken regions throughout the world. These children are learning to read and grow and will be able to build meaningful futures for themselves and their families.
Ella: On behalf of the many children we serve, we humbly thank you, and as the children in Zimbabwe say, “May the Lord bless you for your kindness.”
Thank You, The Wonderland BookSaver Team