Author: brooksbarry

A Garden for Ugandan Orphans

We wish to thank all our many supporters. With your help, we have been able to assist our friends of the Kyamaganda Community Development Organization, KCDO, to purchase land and plant a sustainable garden that will both feed orphaned HIV-positive children, as well as provide funds for their ongoing medical needs.

The children are planting the garden themselves, with help from KCDO Director, Willy Bukenya.

Willy provided us with this update:

“In February 2021, KCDO appealed to WBS about the need to procure a plot of land which was adjacent to the piggery project that was on sale. KCDO currently has 35 children on ART (ARVs) under our care at the centre. The main challenge was lack of food and malnutrition challenge that can cause non suppression and timely sickness. Through A miracle, we sold some pigs to raise local contribution and Wonderland BookSavers contributed a bigger percentage to raise the 70% first installment that was needed.

We paid off and we immediately set nursery bed for cabbage, maize, soya peas with active involvement of children themselves, Director and the mother who cares for the children. Water was a challenge and we had strong rosary in which we eventually received rainfall.

We transferred the seedling from nursery bed to garden as photos indicate. We used the pigs’ dung to fertilize the garden and we expect the following.

Expectations:

  • If all goes well, the garden will yield:-
  • 6bags of maize each with 100kgs valued at $85.
  • 2000 cabbages from the harvest costed at $285.
  • 10 baskets of carrots with a value of $57.
  • 10 bags of Green paper with value of $171
  • 300kgs of soya peas   $153.

Once the harvest period is ready in July, the following challenges will be overcome.

  • The cost of buying food will be reduced by 85%.
  • The nutrition of vulnerable children will be boasted and their health immunity improved.
  • The children and KCDO beneficiaries will acquire modern skills of farming which can be passed over to other households.
  • The garden serves as a demonstration site for the community and this can be replicated to other surrounding villages.

Challenges:

The need to have KCDO spray pump and enough fertilizers through adding on number of pigs and a cow project for cow dung supply and milk supply too.”

UPDATE

Through your generosity, we have now been able to purchase the land and KCDO has complete title to the land. This land is adjacent to the KCDO Library, which we previously funded and which currently houses orphans who cannot reside in schools due to Covid closures. This land is also adjacent to the piggery which we funded a few years ago. The piggery has expanded, providing multiple households with their own small piggeries. Pig dung is being used to fertilize this garden; pig sales provided the initial downpayment on this land.

One more contribution: We were able to purchase this motorcycle so that KCDO staff can continue to assist children living in distant rural regions.

We send our thanks to the many who have helped us bring some security to these vulnerable children!

A Tale of One Hill and One Valley

This year, upon returning to New Beginnings Family Academy with 3,000 books to contribute to their summer reading program, I had the opportunity to reflect on the amazing journey I have traveled as co-founder, and now President of the Wonderland BookSavers Inc.

As a young and creative child, reading provided a window into thousands of fantastical worlds unbound by logic, physics, or everyday problems. This love of reading inspired my friends and I to take the modest first step of what would later become one of the important decisions of our lives: We started a book club.

I was only 8 at the time, and although reading exciting and compelling books such as Linda Sue Park’s, “A Single Shard,” with my three closest friends was wonderful, we felt like it wasn’t enough. With the passion we possessed for reading, we knew we had to do more, we wanted to live some of the values these stories engendered.  As it turned out, “A Single Shard,” would contain a quote that came to define our journey, “One hill, one valley, one day at a time. In that way, your spirit will not grow weary before you have even begun to walk.” If we had imagined then that within the following decade our book club would become a fully registered 501c3 international charity, donating over 825,000 books and thousands of other supplies to impoverished children and adults throughout the world, I’m certain we never would have embarked upon such an impossible-sounding journey. Starting with, as Linda Sue Park writes, “One hill,” we began slowly, gradually picking up speed.

Walking into our local library, at age 8, I never could have imagined how the boxes of books that lay at my feet would change my life entirely, “What are they doing on the floor?” I asked. The librarian responded, “These books are out of circulation, as nobody has checked them out in a long time. They are going to be shredded into pulp and sent to a newspaper.” I was horrified. How could these books, or any books, deserve to be shredded? I begged to take them home with me, where I could find them a new home.

I soon found a charter school, New Beginnings Family Academy, that was requesting books. Together, my team and I wheeled in a large donation, 685 beautiful children’s books. We brought our books to the school library, where we saw one empty shelf after another. We knew our books would be well appreciated. We were given a tour of the school; the school children, our age, swarmed around us. They were as excited to meet us as were to meet them!  This was the first of many moments to come where I truly recognized how my love of books could literally introduce me to new worlds around me. 

That day, Wonderland BookSavers: Inspired by Literature was born. We set a goal of donating 1,500 books. With 685 books already donated, and our tagline, “Inspired by Literature,” we felt invincible. Over the coming months we would reach our goal multiple times. We hosted book drives at schools, churches, and libraries, giving speeches to hundreds of people at a time. Although the crowd before me and the sound of my own voice booming through the auditoriums often filled me with trepidation, I knew that if I could simply inspire my audience, I could make a real change in someone’s life.

The results were astounding, and with each barrier passed we found that we became more confident in ourselves, understood our mission more clearly and as the Wonderland BookSavers grew and matured, and began connecting with children and communities around the world, so too, we were maturing, becoming more confident and more knowledgeable both about the power of literacy and the power of friendship. 

Today, as truly as we are touching and impacting the lives of others, equally, others from across the globe are impacting our lives.  The Wonderland BookSavers and our team are growing up together.

We remain so grateful to all who have joined us along the way. Thank you!

17,500 Books for Somaliland

Mark called to let us know that the container is being loaded mid-April, heading for a new country: Somaliland. Our garage was literally overflowing with boxes and bags in every corner. We could not have fit another book if we tried. We were ready to pack up the truck and send our books, toys, school supplies and clothing on to new homes, children and families!

We called our friends, Paul, Charles and brother Reid, and we began loading the truck.

Mark and Mom kept sorting and boxing while we loaded the truck.

Finally, we were done: 17,500 books and so many toys, stuffed animals, clothes and supplies!

We look forward to sharing the pictures of our items when the shipping container arrives in Somaliland, many months from now!

“There is no God but ALLAH and MOHAMMED is his messenger”

Our Container Arrives in Sierra Leone

We are happy to report that the books we packed (above) with Mark have made it all the way from Brooklyn, NY to Sierra Leone. Mark received this beautiful letter from Sheku, the founder of Hands on Leone. We are grateful to have been able to contribute to this meaningful project.

Dear Mark,

Thank you for making this wonderful project happen in my home country Sierra Leone. As a kid, I dreamed of building a educational center for my fellow disables people. When you are disable in Sierra Leone, you are considered useless and you are not important in the society. I felt this pain when I lost both my hands in the civil war.

After losing my hands at the age of 12, I did not have anyone to pay for my school fee. One day I was setting with my young brother Saio at the Aberdeen refugee camp for amputees, an American Peace Corp came to help amputees kids to go to school and I was one of the kids. I was registered to start school on September 2000 right after the war. After registration, I started school September 6, 2000. Upon my arrival at the Aberdeen school, I was told by the teachers and principal of the school to go home because the is not meant for people like me. I returned at the camp crying and I thought my world had ended. I did not have no mother or father to take care of me. The rebels killed both my parents in the war. I am the older one among my siblings. 

Mr. Gary the American Peace Corp who paid for my school fee, came to see if all the kids he paid school fee for attending school. He came and found me at the same spot where I was setting when he was visiting the camp. I told him my story. After that, he found someone at the camp to tutor me. I attended tutoring class every day until I got the chance to come America. When I arrived here, I found that people with disabilities were well respected.  From that moment on, I told myself after I finished school and get a good job and I will start a organization to help build a educational center for my fellow amputees. Also, in the center we will have medical center to help them with their prosthesis legs and hands.

I want to say thank you to you and your team for making my dreams come true. I look forward to work with you and your team to make this dream true.
Thank you,

Sheku

Winter Book Boxing

Our team gathered to box the numerous books and supplies that we have been collecting over the past several months. 

It was a fun, chilly few hours in the garage. 

We have more than 250 boxes packed, labeled and ready for shipment. 

We still have dozens of boxes of books left to prepare for shipping, and are anticipating another few hundred more that are scheduled to arrive at our garage soon.

We will continue collecting and boxing throughout the winter.

We hope to be able to deliver books to our shipping partners this spring.

Our next target destinations are Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda and Somaliland.  

Greetings from our garage! We can’t wait for children to receive our books!

Amelia and Mason to the Rescue!

We are thrilled to report that despite schools being closed and our community being on Covid lockdown, Amelia and Mason have been diligently gathering and donating toys, books, water bottles and school supplies throughout the winter.

Each time we return home we discover new treasures waiting on the doorstep or front porch!

We are so grateful to both Amelia and Mason (and mom Joy!) for their generosity and commitment to helping children around the world. We know that these gifts will be truly appreciated by the children who will receive them. Thank you so much to Amelia, Mason, and the many many local children who have contributed to our efforts.

“Give, and it shall be given unto you.” Luke 6:38

Building Solar Powered Digital Libraries

This winter, in partnership with our friends Bob and Manning from USACF, we split into teams to build several solar powered digital libraries that we then shared with our partners in the Kyamaganda Community of the Lwengo District of Uganda.

These libraries are stored on a miniature computer, a Raspberry PI.  Bob and Manning, and some WBS kids, compiled the material.  The books which are stored on the raspberry PI include African stories, classic British and American literature currently in the public domain, textbooks in the subjects of math, science, history and health, Khan Academy lessons, Wikipedia excerpts, and Health and Agriculture texts relevant to African life. In total, there are 1,000’s of books or lessons available to either view or download.

The raspberry PI has a signal range of between 25-50 feet.  Any WIFI enabled device can pick up the signal and have access to the material.  This is very important in areas that have no internet, as it provides books and resources that are otherwise unavailable. Parents can download books and lessons for children unable to attend school. Using a projector, teachers can provide lessons to an entire class.

Here is a report from Mark regarding the success in Zimbabwe:

“I got an update from Dominic Muntanga about the status of education in Zimbabwe last week. Because of Covid-19 and a teacher’s job action over wages (Zim is in the midst of a runaway inflation spiral), schools are closed. When they will reopen is anyone’s guess. Most rural children have no access to books. Most learning is on hold. Dominic wondered what could be done.

Enter the Bridge Pi. We came up with a plan to work with church congregations and urban centers. Moyo (our Zimbabwean expert on the Pi) would bring his Bridge Pi to a designated location on a specific date. Parents, relatives and friends would come with the cell phones and if they got within 50 meters of the Bridge Pi, they would be able to download a variety of books onto their cell phones. Suddenly children with no books could read books on their family’s cell phones. What was amazing was how easily this was put into motion.

Its potential is enormous in every community across Africa and elsewhere. 

It’s like turning on a light in a dark room.

Enormous thanks to Bob Rollins and Manning Sutton who developed the Bridge Pi and are continually adapting it to the needs of different countries.”

We decided to begin our KCDO introduction of these digital libraries with 3 units.  Two are powered by electricity and one has the option of being solar powered. We divided up the assembly and testing of these units between three families, this shared both the cost (approximately $130 each) and the work (very simple).

Brooks made the first one, following internet directions and additional directions from Manning. 

Then our friends in California, Iris and Noah, made the next one.  Each of us tested our units.  It was amazing to see all of the digital options pop up on our computer and phones, all powered by this one tiny computer. Henry, Ella and Wills made the third.  Theirs has optional solar power.

Finally, we were able to send the first two digital libraries to Willy at KCDO in Uganda.  It took him a few tries, but Brooks spoke to Willy on WhatsApp and so did Bob and Manning.  Willy and Brooks rewrote the directions in a simpler form. Willy said, “It’s working!”

Next Willy held an all-day conference at the KCDO library.  He brought tech support and the heads of the three target test schools, as well as students from the schools so that everyone could test the system, see what works and make a plan to incorporate the materials into the school system.  The teachers and students offered some suggestions which Bob and Manning are working on, such as incorporating Uganda specific school books. The KCDO report on this event can be read here.

Brooks will test Henry’s solar raspberry PI.  Bob and Manning may update the SD card to include Ugandan specific information, and we will send this third mini-computer on to KCDO. Several of these mini-computers are already successfully deployed in Zimbabwe, we are hopeful that we can have similar success in Uganda.

Looking for a winter simple activity?

Contact us if you would like to build a digital library for the Kyamaganda community. We look forward to hearing from you!

Water Purifiers Success Story

This blog post is brought to us directly from our Ugandan partners, Kyamaganda Community Development Organization, in the Lwengo District. Through our partnership with KCDO, SolarBags, and YOUR generous support through our GoFundMe page, and other fund raising efforts, TOGETHER we provided this wonderful opportunity of creating the availability clean water to these most vulnerable children. Thank you ALL so much for your support!

Compiled by Wakimwere Arnold, field officer, KCDO

Introduction

During our home visit in the household, we found out that most of our clients get water from different sources like boreholes, harvesting it from rain, wells, streams, ponds among others. Through the assessment done by the staffs Kyamaganda Community  Development Organization(KCDO),  most of the households in sub-county of Kisekka access water for drinking from streams and ponds   which expose  them to taking contaminated water thus likely to be exposed to water born diseases like  typhoid fever, is well-known in extremely poor parts of developing nations; it’s estimated that up to 20 million people worldwide suffer from the illness each year. It’s spread through contaminated food, unsafe water, and poor sanitation, and it is highly contagious, Cholera which is commonly found in humanitarian emergencies or marginalized villages where poverty and poor sanitation are rampant. The disease is spread through contaminated water and causes severe dehydration and diarrhea. Cholera can be fatal within days or even hours of exposure to the bacteria, but only 1 in 10 people will develop life-threatening symptoms, dysentery also a waterborne disease characterized by severe diarrhea as well as blood or mucus in the stool. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites in unsafe food and water, Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by consuming contaminated food and water, rural communities with poor sanitation and hygiene management are most exposed to the disease.

Photo below shows children fetching water in a stream in kisekka sub – county

Following the observation in the introduction above, with support from USA-KCDO Partners Kyamaganda Community Development Organization (KCDO) implemented Health Systems Strengthening Project in two sub-county Kisekka sub – county and Kinoni Town Council targeting households infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable Status. This was achieved through working with different stake holds I.e health centers, Village Health Teams(VHTs) Community Development Officers(CDOs)Local Council Leaders (LCs) Para-Social Workers(PSWs) and Volunteers  that deliver comprehensive services of Health and treatments to affected and infected households by HIV/AIDS and other Economic empowerment and Water and Sanitation to different vulnerable people in the community.

A total number of 100 household were reached and received solar bag for domestic use.

KCDO staff demonstrating how to use solar bag.   KCDO staff handing over solar bag to a client

ACHIEVEMENT:

Since these Solar Bag is a sunlight-activated reusable water purifier that destroys or reduces the broadest range of contaminants without pumping, electricity, chemicals or replaceable components. This has reduced the spread of various water born diseases as the members are able to purify water to kill all the germs and  Chemical Contaminants like;  Pesticides,  Herbicides, Insecticides,  Cleaning Solvents,  Petrochemicals,  Pharmaceuticals,  Pathogens- Bacteria,  Viruses,  Protozoa  before drinking through simply placing the Solar Bag in the sun for a few hours, and enjoy purified water. 

While caring out a follow up and monitoring on the usage of this purifiers in the community and household being supplied with the water solar bags, we observed that these water solar bags have helped the individuals so much, in the way that individuals use this solar bags on the daily basis to purify water for drinking, they extended their sincere appreciation to kcdo and our partners at large for bringing up such a wonderful idea of protecting and living a health life. One of the household of lutaaya jamewo upon reaching there on the ground, we found children happily looking on as the solar bag full of water placed on the Jeri can.

KCDO staff conducting a follow up in kyasonko village kisekka sub- county

KCDO staff and a child from the home steady taking water purified using a solar bag.

Conclusion

The needs of OVC or otherwise made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS are cross cutting as many of them dramatically escalates from economic, health and household social issues. It would be necessary for KCDO and partners to jointly continue to work with local families, communities, and other organizations in a similar setting to focus their program and policy development efforts on ensuring the survival of these OVC households in breaking the cycle of poverty, despair, in regard this can make positive and measurable contributions to the improved health, safety, and happiness of the HIV+ (OVC) in the most appropriate environments for their development. We extend our warmly appreciation to our partner who donated us the purifiers to improve on the life of the people in rural based communities of kisekka and kinoni and ready to continue working with them in any way, God bless.

Compiled by Wakimwere Arnold

Sierra Leone: Shipping Container (transports and converts into): Library and Education Center

Blog post courtesy of USACF

Our friends and partners, US-Africa Children’s Fellowship (USACF), recently formed an important partnership with Hands On Sierra Leone. The head of HOSL is Sheku Mansaray, pictured above, and below. Sheku first came to America as a teenager to receive prosthetics to replace his lower arms which were cut off during the civil war in Sierra Leone. Sheku did not go back to Sierra Leone immediately after his surgery. He began a new life in Staten Island. He became a Legal Technology Specialist and now works for Paul Weiss.

Over the last few years, Sheku has turned his attention back to Sierra Leone. He is building a home in Freetown and is working to help the people of Sierra Leone in every way he can.

The focus of HOSL has been to help children of amputees. For the last ten years, HOSL has been paying the school fees for 53 children. The children attend 15 schools around the towns of Makeni, Kono, Luing and Masiaka. But much more needs to be done. None of their schools have libraries. We are all working together and have recently filled a container with children’s books and other needed donations. This 40-foot HC container is now on its way to Sierra Leone. The container has been purchased and will be converted into a library/learning center once it is put down in the town of Makeni.

The Book Fairies in Freeport, Long Island donated 600 boxes of children’s books.

We, from Wonderland BookSavers, donated 125 boxes of books, numerous bags of clothing, and a case of French-language children’s picture books handmade by the students of the Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center in Chicago.

USACF donated 300 boxes of books, schools supplies, soccer gear and clothing for this shipment. Crutches and soccer uniforms have also been collected for a one-legged soccer league. This shipment will change thousands of lives.

There are exciting plans to convert the shipping container into both a library and a learning center. Teachers will attend workshops to learn to use the digital Bridge Pi library which will greatly enhance their student’s access to information.

Sheku’s dream of helping the people of Sierra Leone is taking shape. With your support, we will turn his dream into reality.

Solar Bag Water Purifiers Distributed

Since the beginning of Covid days we have been working to bring items which will improve the health and safety of families to our friends in the Kyamganda Community (KCDO) located in the Lwengo District of Uganda. Thanks to many of you who follow our blog, we have received both funds and in-kind items that have been immensely useful to our friends. With your help, we have sent food, medicine, soap and masks, as well as self-sustaining micro-economic opportunities: pig farms, chicken farms, soap and mask making tools.

Today we are thrilled to report that, in partnership with our friends from Solarbag®, and with your help, we are also able to provide a few families with the ability to create their own clean water for drinking and washing!

Solarbag® is an award winning light weight water container that uses proprietary nanomesh which renders bacteria, viruses, pesticides, herbicides, petrochemicals, arsenic, lead, mercury and protozoa harmless — without using chemicals– through a process called photocatalysis that’s powered by the sun.” 

Our friends at Solarbag® donated 100 bags! Additional funds, supplied from our Go Fund Me account, were required for import taxes and final transportation to KCDO offices. The process took days of negotiations with Ugandan Customs officers. We were all overjoyed when the boxes finally reached the KCDO offices!

KCDO field officers were immediately trained on the use and care of the Solarbags®.

Isn’t that amazing?! Solarbag®

KCDO field officers left the next day to begin distributing Solarbags® throughout the Kyamaganda community.

Willy writes, “As at the end of the exercise all benefited household thanked KCDO and their partners for the good services rendered to them and community of Lwengo at large.”