book donations

Thank You Pawling Library! By Sebastian

During this season of reflecting on our blessings, we can’t help but think about our friends at the Pawling Library in Pawling, NY. The Friends of Pawling Library have been a true and constant blessing to the work of Wonderland BookSavers, and particularly Library Trustee Karen Franco and her husband Juan Franco, who have been generously and consistently donating and delivering hundreds of boxes of books every year to Wonderland since 2018.

A few years ago, I contacted Pawling Library about their annual book sale, hoping they would consider donating any remaindered books from their sale to WBS. The Friends of Pawling Library were not only willing to donate their leftover books, but Ms. Franco suggested continuing their support throughout the year! The Francos deliver boxes of beautiful childrens’ and young adults’ books into my family’s garage, even when we’re not there!  We come home and boxes of books have miraculously appeared to be sorted and distributed around the world, to children in need.

Books from The Pawling Library have thus far been delivered to Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Kenya in Africa, as well as the Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Reservations in South Dakota. Last year, when the Kyamaganda Community Development Organization in Uganda requested Bibles for their staff members that go out to the different villages they serve, the Francos came to the rescue, somehow procuring 45 used and remaindered bibles nearly overnight!

Several months later, this message came from Willy Bukenya who leads that organization: “With smiling heart and happy face, I am happy to inform you that your donated 52 boxes of books, learning materials and sports and games equipment have arrived today in Uganda and at Kyamaganda Community Development Organization.  My team was happy too with the Bibles which will strengthen the spiritual nature of our project staff!”

In Mr. Bukenya’s perfect words, with smiling hearts and happy faces, we deeply thank The Friends of the Pawling Library for their ceaseless support and generosity in helping us bring books to children and communities in need. Their tireless help and support has been a great blessing to this organization, and we hope to continue our partnership for years to come.

Thank you Pawling Library! We Love you! PS Thank you for writing my name on every box, here you can see the very boxes you donated, in Uganda, with Sebastian written across the top!

Somalia

In partnership with our friends from US-Africa Children’s Fellowship and United Muslin Relief, we have been able to send several containers of clothing, blankets, backpacks and books to refugees living in Somalia.

We are gratified to learn that books we have donated today, and those we will donate in the future will be used to promote learning in 3 newly established Somalian schools.

Little Labs…Big Imagination

Fairfield University hosts teachers from Bridgeport and beyond, creating a writing center that seeks to teach young children the joys of reading and creative writing. Our friend, Gina, asked us to contribute books that could be distributed throughout Bridgeport classrooms, enabling children to have better access to quality literature. We packed up 1,100 books, and brought them to the teachers.

Gina set up the books as a help-yourself free book shop, allowing the teachers to select books that would be a great fit for their classrooms.  We are working with Gina to bring, along with books, some of the creative writing skills developed in Little Labs…Big Imagination to the Cheyenne River reservation this coming summer.

Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe

This summer we packed up 15,000 books for shipment to Africa.

It took our whole team days to prepare the books, and several hours to load the truck.

Even our new puppy, Legend hopped up to help us!

On loading day, our friend and partner, Mark from US-Africa Children’s Fellowship, met us in our garage.

We had to weigh every box and fill out the Bill of Lading.

Finally we were done! But for Mark, the adventure was just beginning!

Mark traveled to Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, unloading boxes of books in every country!

All our boxes of books finding new homes on a new continent, and so many happy faces! Mark is our hero too!

 

Pray Without Ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Through Prayer A Distribution Center is Built

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Matthew 7:7

This is the story of 3 years of prayers, with originally no hope. Our first contact from the Kyamaganda Community Development Center was a simple request, found on our Contact form, “We would love to partner with you in establishing libraries in Lwengo District, Uganda, Willy.” It was followed by a simple pictures of local children playing “banana ball,” a soccer ball made from banana leaves.

Over the next several years Willy continued to write to us.  We learned of droughts, the rainy season, homes destroyed, children with malaria and HIV.  But Willy never complained.  He continued to patiently ask us for schoolbooks and soccer balls so that the children could grow and learn.  And although we assured Willy that we did not have the necessary contacts to get the goods into Uganda, Willy just believed that God would find a way.

“Education, food and water best describe our urgent needs. Otherwise, we are so grateful for your timely efforts and we pray and strongly believe that One God will make a way.”  We exchanged Christmas and Easter blessings, and still we had no hope to offer.

We did what we could, which was to send one soccer ball.  It took 3 months to arrive, “Dear loving friend, Am happy to inform you that we received the gift u sent to us a foot ball and ball pump together in a box. Thanking you for your love and care.” Willy

 

“Today we officially had a practice using our ball you sent us! We had 39 youth who turned up for boys and 20 girls but they had no netball’s (volley ball) to use but we used the same ball for boys and girls. Pressure was reduced and then after we pumped the Ball again. So the needs identified in games and sports includes the following, we need to have more 3 balls for football (soccer), and 2 for netball, volley ball net, first aid kit, sports jerseys. You can guide us on how to improve this and handle. Otherwise the start was good and many youth turned up for the play.”

We were discouraged at not being able to do more for Willy and the Kyamaganda community.  We began to give up.  Helping Uganda was not possible.

Willy wrote, “We are happy to inform you that our team for soccer play has grown. But girls need to be given considerations and boys too. Hi u dear. it has been some time that we have not had any communication from you. but God is keeping us safe.”

We began to join Willy in prayer.  His parish prayed, and we prayed.  There was no other action we could take.

“We are organizing a thanksgiving Mass and prayers for the existence of Kyamaganda Community Development Organization, now three years striving to serve the poor and underprivileged communities in southern Uganda, Lwengo district. Join us in prayers next Sunday. Ever we believe one day God will be on our side and do above we think and ask.”

And then one day we received an email from Lee in Zambia, requesting books.  We regularly send books to Zimbabwe.  Zambia is on the border.  Maybe we could establish a distribution center in Bulawayo Zimbabwe.  Maybe both Lee and Willy could collect books from Zimbabwe?

“Thank you for the reply and prayers. Also setting up a distribution centre in Uganda can be given a good thought. We shall keep praying such that one day we have school supplies, books, and sports equipments.”

We began to collect our empty boxes, and organize our garage.

“Am happy to inform you that I got a call from Zimbabwe and the lady is willing to receive our goods in the container and arrange for transportations and they reach in Uganda. It’s a big opportunity for us. May God bless the work of your hands.”

We created separate shipping labels: blue for Zambia, green for Uganda, and white for Zimbabwe. We also began to take specific packing requests.

“Greetings! A kind inquiry if you have been able to get some scholastic materials and equipments as you had promised and be included in the books deliverables to Africa . We need some Bible’s too.”

We were able to purchase a case of 32 new Bibles and procured several cases of children’s Bibles as well.  We bought a new outdoor volley ball net and 6 volley balls.  We traded 20 boxes of children’s books for 90 soccer balls.  We gathered tons of soccer equipment, jerseys, gloves and cleats from a California charity, SKCharities http://www.donatejerseys.com/

Now we knew we could succeed and at long last help Willy and his parish, all of whom had been patiently praying for 3 years, believing that help would arrive.

Soon our boxes were packed and it was time to load the shipping container in Brooklyn.

We had no idea it was so big!

This container can hold over 40,000 books and thousands of supplies.

It took all morning and dozens of people, finally the container was loaded. But our problems were not over.  There was a long delay getting the shipment through customs, and then the cost of moving the goods through to Uganda.

“It’s good to hear such news and we have contacted the organization in Bulawayo and they have promised to get us a clearing agent who can help us to transport them to Uganda. They should get us a quotation and we find resources though a rigorous process to find funds to move the boxes to Uganda, Lwengo District.”

Luckily, we were able to provide the transportation funds for the final part of the trip.

“Praise Lord! 

Today I was praying early in the morning and I was inspired that God can do above we think and ask. My prayer to every heart is the will to make it happen to those in need. Am glad for the efforts you timely make and I strongly believe God will bless the works of your hands.  However, we have put in more prayers and rosaries for God to find a way for us. As the need prevails, we shall get back to you for your kind attention to realize our dream of having boxes received and in Uganda. The struggle continues. Hope God who started this good work will finish it.”

 

The original soccer ball we sent one year ago.

 

Soccer balls for every student, soccer balls and equipment for all the local schools!

Volley ball!

Pencils for everyone!

Teachers!

Crayons!

We are so grateful to be able to share our love of God with the children of the Kyamaganda parishes. Truly, prayers on two continents have been answered.

“With smiling heart and face, am happy to inform you that your donated 52 boxes of books, learning materials and sports and games equipments have arrived today in Uganda and at Kyamaganda Community Development Organization. My team was happy with the Bible’s too which will strengthen the spiritual nurture of our project staff.

Thank you so much and the struggle continues and in life our hope will never get dry. 

Stay blessed, Willy”

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.

Isaiah 65:24

South Africa: Weighing-In at 129 Boxes

We like to get most of our books boxed and on the road before the first snowfall, but somehow we missed that deadline this year, so we put on our warm coats and boots and headed for the garage…

These books are all heading for South Africa, which has fairly strict importation guidelines.  Every box must be accurately labeled and weighed.

This was an excellent job for our treasurer and stellar statistician, Reid.

IMG_2282As well as for our most junior member, Wills, who is just learning his numbers.

Treasurer in training!

IMG_0774.JPGMany pounds of books! I think we can count loading the truck as gym class today.

IMG_2272Claire is managing to box books, load the truck, and attend her OHS classes!

IMG_0771.JPGIMG_0781.JPGFinally our garage is (almost) empty, and it is (almost) Christmas.

IMG_2257

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;  

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.                                    Merry Christmas to All, and to all, A Good Night!

Fall Renewal: 10,000 Books for Zimbabwe; 100 Pen Pal Letters Exchanged

As summer comes to an end, many schools along the East Coast begin preparing for the new school year. This means clearing out their shelves. For us, at Wonderland BookSavers, this is an excellent time of year. We hopped in our Suburban and began visiting our favorite schools from Massachusetts to Connecticut.

IMG_1560

The Wetherbee School, in Massachusetts, has been especially generous. They truly understand the concept of charity. Working with their teachers, school children help to determine books, games and “manipulatives” as well as classroom posters and other tools that are no longer needed. Students then organize, prepare and box items for shipment to Africa. They are so excited and happy to know that they are actively helping other children. They compete for the opportunity to load our Suburban and take photos with us!

IMG_1562

As members of a Title I school, the children here are themselves frequent recipients of aid. Hailing from at least 35 countries, with many of the children describing rice and beans as their favorite food, these students eagerly share stories of daily life in America.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Although it takes almost one year for their Pen Pal letters to make a round trip from Mbembeswana Primary School in Zimbabwe to Wetherbee School in Lawrence MA, they are thrilled that they can share their love of books, games and food with African children. We are so grateful to be the conduit for this truly snail-paced child-to-child mail system.

IMG_2208IMG_2207IMG_2206

Many other schools have been eager to help us in our mission to spread literacy. Librarians eagerly contact us as they prepare for the new school year.

They are delighted that their favorite books will keep inspiring children.

IMG_1542

And we are happy to help them box and relocate their books from their libraries to our fabulous sorting area: our garage!

IMG_1438IMG_9901.JPG

Here we sort our books by age, subject, and intended destination, so that each region will get appropriate material. Some countries require us to weigh and quantify every box. Finally, we load our boxes onto trucks.

IMG_9905.JPGIMG_1437IMG_9906.JPG

From here they get loaded onto shipping containers and finally set off on their long journey across the sea, to another continent, 10,000 books, school supplies, pencils, crayons, and most importantly, 100’s of letters of encouragement from children just like themselves in America.

IMG_9907.JPGThe Wonderland BookSavers are grateful to have been able to connect so many children from across the continents and to inspire a shared love of reading, our tagline: Inspired by Literature!

“Sometimes, I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
– Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Boxing Books: An Inspirational Visit by Sebastian

One day last summer, I went for what I thought was going to be a regular day of hanging out with my new friends Pierce, Brooks, Emma, Claire, and Maddie from my school, little did I know I’d end up crashing a Wonderland BookSavers meeting and boxing books in their garage and having an absolute blast!!! But besides having fun, I was mostly deeply inspired by their dedicated work to bring books and literature to those without. When I got in the car to go home, I told to my mom I’d felt like I’d been wasting so much of my life when I could have been really making a difference in the world. I am so inspired by my friends and since then I’ve tried to help in any way I can.

sojourner-truth_0

My pastor likes to quote Sojourner Truth’s wise words that “Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff,” and for me it was really amazing to see my friends, my very same age, making such a direct and tangible difference for humanity.

During the week, I live in Brooklyn, so I figured maybe I could help by reaching out to schools in my community there. Two amazing private schools in Brooklyn were just as inspired by Wonderland BookSavers and were eager to contribute.

The first school to reach out to us was The Berkeley Carroll School. Berkeley Carroll has been so incredibly generous to the Wonderland BookSavers mission— Thank you Berkeley Carroll! The librarians there, Ms. Briar Suaro and Ms. Kristine Hartley-Maneri, have been so kind in reaching out whenever they have books to share and have donated some 50 boxes of books to date!

WBS Sebastian 1

The Brooklyn Friends School was also eager to contribute and offered us a great number of books as well. For the first pick-up, Ms. Ryan and I arranged to meet at the entrance where they could most easily unload the books on Pearl Street in downtown Brooklyn. Picking up books on one-way streets in Brooklyn can always be a little tricky — you usually have to block a little traffic but we try to do it quickly! — and Ms. Ryan warned us we’d have to do some slightly illegal maneuvering in order to get to the unloading spot. But as it turned out, we never had to worry about that because when we went to pick up the books that day we discovered a street fair! A two-block radius around Brooklyn Friends had been blocked off and filled with street vendors! Never daunted, the kind custodian of the school loaned me a dolly so that I could wheel the books down Willoughby Street to where my mom was waiting with the car on the other side. I wonder if those books will always have a faint kabob smell?

WBS Sebastian 2 WBS Sebastian 3

Here we are re-boxing books into smaller boxes in Brooklyn before bringing them up to Connecticut to the Barry’s garage!

WBS Sebastian 4

We also live upstate on the weekends and so I started looking around up there for other opportunities to find books for Wonderland BookSavers too. We found two libraries that were willing to donate all the books they had left over after their annual book sale fundraisers. First we visited the Pawling library, who kindly gave us a generous stack of books (they will be able to give us even more this spring!) And then we visited the Patterson library. Ms. Graham at the Patterson Library so generously offered to donate all of the remainder children’s books from their library! Thank you Patterson Public Library!

WBS Sebastian 5 WBS Sebastian 6

Finally, we brought the books to the Barry’s garage!

WBS Sebastian 7 WBS Sebastian 8

Oh and that’s my sister Emmeline — she has been helping with all of the book moving and packing too and says “Wonderland BookSavers really is a Wonderland because it’s so fun and also kind-of like Magic.” I think she said it perfectly.

Summer Camp: Service Style! Dedicated to Susan Ei

A bookmark printed by the St. Francis Indian Mission in St. Francis, South Dakota has the following Indian prayer: “Great Spirit — Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.” Hearsay attributes the prayer to Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians.

IMG_2034

Before departing this earth, our children’s librarian, Susan Ei, encouraged us to create a Summer Service Day Camp where we could share our knowledge of the world with local kids, and create a fun learning environment that would spark both compassion and enthusiasm for others through literature and service.

global-kids

We decided to tackle this task by geographic region, and by thinking about the people to whom we most commonly donate. We wanted to be sure to include literature, crafts, games, education and a service project in each day’s meeting.

wbs-african-children-5

Africa We began with Africa because we have donated so many books to multiple countries in Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda. We read Patience Mariza Goes for Water by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, a native of Uganda, who has built a school for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

IMG_1231

 

 

This story, although a picture book for children, is very revealing. Patience is faced with unimaginable hardships that a storybook American child would never encounter. She is beaten by her aunt, and accosted by a strange man, worried she may have AIDS, and exhausted by her daily trek in search of clean water. Eventually, she is adopted by a kind grandmother.

 

Many children in Africa walk to school, sometimes several miles, barefoot. Shoes can be made from found objects. We helped our campers understand this by helping them create their own shoes from found objects and then experimented to see how far they could walk….(not far!)

IMG_1184

They also decorated donation boxes that they brought from home and filled with their own shoes so that they could share these with others.

IMG_1235

Haiti To begin our lesson on Haiti we read Tap-Tap by Karen Lynn Williams.

IMG_1215This warm, funny story is about a girl who goes to the market with her mother and after making a little extra money she and her mother are able to ride the taxi-bus home (tap-tap) instead of walking.

We know from our relationship with our friends at Haitian Education Initiatives, that a major part of Haitian children’s education is learning to make things they can sell in the market.

In particular, children learn to sew and to make painted paper-maché bowls. After the Tap-Tap story, our campers sewed beanbags and made painted bowls. They were very beautiful, but perhaps not yet ready to be sold at the market,

IMG_0849

Native Americans Having just returned from South Dakota, we had many stories and adventures to share. We also read Crazy Horse’s Vision by Joseph Bruchac and Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson.  These stories told of the bravery and beauty of the American Indians as well as some of their beliefs and dreams.

The Native Americans believe that Dream Catchers can catch bad dreams and spirits while you sleep and keep you safe.

Our campers made Dream Catchers from found objects, feathers and beads.

gbfood2

Food Lottery Each day, like every wholesome American Day Camp we had Snack Time. Who doesn’t? Well, many of the children we help don’t have snack time. We discussed this each day, and one day we decided it was time to emphasize what that might mean. Each child drew a piece of paper from a basket. Those with an X were given a snack. No X, No Snack. This was a pretty shocking moment, and after a while some pretty human responses occurred. Some kids “stole” some snacks. Some kids secretly “shared” their snacks with others. Some were publicly outraged, while they gobbled their own snacks. Politics as usual.

Read to Feed We wanted to emphasize that reading is for everyone. We brought in a basket of books, the ones we usually donate, and had the campers choose their own books.

Then we made posters and made a Read to Feed program for our local library. Children can be sponsored to read and by reading they can help purchase farm animals that can bring food to a family or village in another community. (Heifer Project)

IMG_1169 (1)

Appalachia We have been donating books and building children’s libraries through Project Appalachia since 2012 so we are pretty committed to helping children in this region.

IMG_1232

We read Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds by Cynthia Rylant and Barry Moser. We also discussed other American communities that are in need of books and supplies. There are kids that need books and supplies that live in our own communities and we need to reach out and help them as well as helping kids that live far away.

Our campers decorated boxes and brought them home to be filled with books that they could donate to children who would love to own their own books.

Around the World and Banana Ball We also played many fun games, like an African version of soccer played with a ball made from banana leaves (although of course we didn’t have any real banana leaves) and “around the world” frisbee.

Hospitalized children We always remember kids who are sick in hospitals. So we talked about illness and had the campers put together care packages of painted bags filled with our Knot-Yet-a-Blanket kits and poetry books.

IMG_1222

Lemonade for Literacy Our final project was to involve our campers, and our community, in our annual lemonade stand.

IMG_1230

Our Summer Service Camp jointly donated and boxed hundreds of shoes, books and school supplies, and created many Blanket Gift Bags. They had walked in handmade shoes, made dream catchers, fought over food, read stories from around the world, and committed to continue reading on their own.

img_5742

It’s time to create global literacy with lemons!

Cheyenne River Reservation: Simply Smiles

While we were delivering books to Pine Ridge Reservation, we received an email from Brian, founder of Simply Smiles, an NGO that supports Cheyenne River Reservation.

IMG_0851

Pow Wow location at Cheyenne River Reservation

He said, quite simply, “Cheyenne River Reservation is only about 4-5 hours from Pine Ridge. In South Dakota, that’s like going out for a cup of coffee…” Well, we kind of laughed about that, because after spending some time in South Dakota we knew what he meant. It takes hours and hours to go from one place to another, and as noted by Emma, you can never use the GPS. Only a map will work.

IMG_0974

After ditching our trailer, and packing our Suburban to the top with boxes of books, we decided we were up for the challenge. We restocked our peanut butter and jelly, refilled our water bottles, and set out on our journey.

IMG_0853

We did run into a 30-minute roadblock of one car, not that unusual we found, and, of course, miles of empty, sandy roads.

IMG_0841

Visiting the Simply Smiles community center, located in Sam Different Horse’s community building on the Cheyenne River Reservation was amazing. Brian and Zachary and their team are welcomed into the Lakota culture. The volunteers all have close relationships with the community.

IMG_0822

The wind blew incessantly, but fortunately the community center had one indoor room and we were able to set up a series of folding tables and create an entire room for our “free” book fair.

IMG_0835

The kids were really excited and grabbed as many books as they could carry. That evening Simply Smiles was hosting a reservation-wide dinner. All the parents and grandparents were able to also come and choose books for their families.

IMG_0838

One woman shyly asked if she could keep some of our better-conditioned cardboard boxes to use as furniture to store her clothing in her new home. We were humbled by this simple request.

Simply Smiles imports soil and has created functioning gardens that produce enough food to feed a substantial portion of the local community.

IMG_0848

The greenhouse was built when Simply Smiles volunteers and Lakota Indians worked together. Zachary explained how difficult it was to stretch the plastic sheeting over the metal hoops and secure it down while battling the constant wind. We could barely imagine. The paper flowers are remnants from the previous night’s decorations when the greenhouse served as a teen dance hall.

We have continued our relationship with the Cheyenne River Reservation kids, inviting some of them to our home when they were traveling near us, visiting NYC. They joined us for dinners, swimming and basketball on several occasions. We have supported Brian at local fundraisers for Simply Smiles. We are so grateful that we have had this opportunity to get to know some of the Lakota kids and we hope to see them again. To learn more about the efforts to sustain the Lakota peoples of the Cheyenne River Reservation: Simply Smiles

Enjoy a film our team made about our trip to the three reservations: Rosebud, Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River: