Hazy-Lazy-Summer Days 2021

This summer, despite Covid quarantines and many closed borders, we still found opportunities to share books and supplies with our neighbors, both near and far. All our activities are ongoing, however current initiatives are in bold.

We were very grateful when author Reshma Sapre reached out to us and donated 82 cases of brand-new beautiful books based upon Indian myths and tales.

Here are two: In the Indian Night Sky and The Traveler, the Tiger and the Jackal. The illustrations are exquisite and the tales have universal appeal.  New books are helpful as some of our recipients will only accept new books as part of their donation initiative. 

After being named as official Kindess Crusaders, We received several cases of Kindness in the Neighborhood by Wendy Littlefield.

We brought cases of Reshma’s books to the Pequot Library Teacher’s Tent.  This tent is open to teachers of the Bridgeport Public school system and provides teachers with the opportunity, each summer, to choose new books for their classroom. 

We then traveled throughout Southern Vermont, bringing cases of both Reshma’s and Wendy’s books to medical centers that partner with Reach Out and Read. Reach Out and Read is a literacy initiative which partners with doctors to provide free books to children who lack access to books.  As part of the medical visit, doctors will help parents understand the importance of reading to their child. Children and their parents can then choose a book from the Reach Out and Read supply. We will continue to provide Reach Out and Read with new books, when requested.

We built more BridgePi digital libraries, this time our BridgePi libraries can be powered either with electricity, or be solar powered.  As you can see below, each BridgePi is connected to a battery pack that is wired to a solar panel, providing 6-8 hours of constant usage. WiFi enabled devices can download materials from up to 50 feet away. These devices have been essential during Covid as the schools in Uganda remain closed. Due to school closure, the Ugandan Ministry of Education provided digital editions of all school materials from Kindergarten through Grade 12. 

We were able to add the Ugandan educational materials to the BridgePi chip, greatly enhancing the usefulness of the digital library. We sent 3 solar powered BridgePi digital libraries, each containing over 1,000 books, to Kyamaganda Development Organization (KCDO), Lwengo District, Uganda.

We received a grant of $1,000 that paid for shipping our devices, and allowed us to fund a high-quality projector, screen and blackout curtains for the KCDO library in Lwengo District, Uganda. We are now working to source and add O-level and A-level practice exams to the chip.

KCDO was able to attract several summer interns, some in the US and some in Europe.  We were able to work with them via WhatsApp, sharing some fundraising and donation ideas.  KCDO received monetary donations from some interns. Sydney, from California, received hundreds of donated cloth masks which she shipped to us.  We wrapped our BridgePi devices in these masks and shipped them to KCDO.

Throughout the summer, we continued to organize our garage, pack and label books, and clothing. We also traveled to various schools to pick up additional books and science lab supplies. As soon as the borders open, we are ready to once again ship to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda!

With help from CT lawyer, Kelsie, we were able to assist KCDO with a legal agreement that transferred a 2-acre parcel of land from the Ugandan government to KCDO, for the purpose of building a medical center, library and playground complex. Additional funds contributed by JF and Zoë will allow KCDO to grade and fence the property, preparing it for construction (more funds still needed for the next phase!)

Together, we and KCDO, are working with Operational International and Project C.U.R.E to acquire needed medical supplies. 

We are most grateful to Bob for funding food and school fees of the 35 KCDO orphans whom we have been supporting for the past few years. The funding provides education from September 2021-December 2022. We are working with Willy on a “learning partner” system that will pair each KCDO child with a US student, to encourage friendship and success.

John, from Von Steuben high school in Chicago, sent us 100 beautifully written and illustrated books from his French 2 students, representing their final projects.  We are looking for French-speaking children who will enjoy these books.

We are excited to learn that Mark and Sheku Mansaray will be meeting with MIT students to discuss 3D printing of protheses for amputees residing in Sierra Leone.  This is part of the learning center project Mark and Sheku initiated last year, and to which we were able to contribute. Being able to create protheses on location in Sierra Leone would be invaluable to the many victims of the Civil War. We hope to be able to help with this initiative.

And our last summer endeavor that we continue to work on: funding a cow for the KCDO orphans, so they can have milk.  We’re almost there! Maybe we can send a cow by Christmas!

Contact us if you are interesting in assisting us as we move into fall. We hope to hear from you!

Thank you Berkeley Carroll School

by Sebastian Zuba

When I joined the Wonderland BookSavers team in 2017, I was the only member who didn’t live in Connecticut, and we immediately knew that one of the best ways I could support our efforts would be to expand our reach for acquiring books. One of the first schools in Brooklyn that I called was Berkeley Carroll, and from the very beginning the librarians there have been eager to help our cause! Berkeley Carroll is a K-12 school with a big heart and a lot of libraries (!) and Ms. Kris Hartley-Maneri, Ms. Kendra Barbary, Ms. Briar Sauro, Ms. Mimi Stauber, and Ms. Anna Murphy are the most wonderful librarian-heroes that Wonderland BookSavers could ever ask for!

The wonderful Berkeley Carroll librarians!

Every year, these amazing librarians cull through their incredible collections and designate any surplus or remaindered books for Wonderland BookSavers and then carefully pack them into heavy-duty book boxes. Because there are four libraries in the three different buildings, this usually means my sister and I do about 4 huge pick-ups every year!  

The amazing first grade teacher Ms. Cuba!

Since it’s Brooklyn and there are a lot of stairs and usually only one small service elevator in each building, the equally wonderful Mr. Hicham and his maintenance staff, help bring the books out to the street and then we load as many into our car at a time as we can! This takes a lot of coordinating and a lot of time and we are so grateful to everyone at Berkeley Carroll for making this happen!

The incredible Mr. Hicham, Mr. José and Mr. Salvador!

So far, books from Berkeley Carroll have gone to schools and community centers in need right here in NYC and Connecticut, as well as the Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Reservations in South Dakota, and, with the help of the US-Africa Children’s Fellowship, all the way to Uganda, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Somalia. Wonderland BookSavers is a community that can only operate with a lot of helping hands along the way, and we are so lucky to have the amazing and generous staff of the Berkeley Carroll School on our team.

Lower school pick up

My grandmother has a sign in her kitchen with a quote that’s attributed to Gandhi that says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I recently read that this famous quote is actually a paraphrase and what Gandhi actually said was, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.”

My grandmother’s sign

What I like about this original quote is the greater emphasis on how each individual change can in fact effect a world of individual changes and that is exactly what is so amazing about Wonderland BookSavers. We’re all just doing one small part but together we can be a world of change.

Even though kids weren’t at school, the librarians still packed up books during Covid!

Thank you Ms. Kris, Ms. Kendra, Ms. Briar, Ms. Mimi, Ms. Anna and all the Berkeley Carroll staff for working so hard to be a world of change with us!

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