book donations

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.

Sharing While Sheltering: A Win-Win for NYC

As we shelter in place we continue to collect books and our collections have been growing.  Numerous libraries, unable to host book sales, as well as people stuck at home and enthusiastically reviewing their possessions, have resulted in a surplus of fabulous books and clothing in our garage.

Sebastian received at least 100 boxes of beautiful children’s books, delivered contactless, from The Pawling Free Library.

Brooks was able to bring these books (contactless) to our WBS garage.

Pequot Library brought a pickup truck filled with books to our garage.

Typically, during the summer, we ship these books to Zimbabwe, but this year all our shipments are stuck in Customs, due to Covid-19.

We began receiving requests from NYC shelters, requesting books for homeless children who, unable to attend school, lack internet, and have no access to books, were craving both entertainment and education.  The only issue was that we were unable to deliver the books, and the shelters were unable to receive them, as most locations were unable to accept deliveries due to Covid-19.

Piece of Cake moving company graciously stepped in and offered to donate their truck and men to our cause.

Piece of Cake came to our garage, and on a bright sunny day, with all of us moving quickly, we were able to fill their entire truck.

Partnering with our various friends, including Pawling Free Library, Pequot Library, Piece of Cake Moving & Storage, St.Pius X Parish, Book Fairies, US-Africa Children’s Fellowship, and NYC homeless shelters, including WIN-NYC, we were jointly able to share over 20,000 books and numerous clothing items across multiple shelters in all 5 Manhattan boroughs.

We hope that access to books brings some relief from the endless boredom of sheltering, sheltering sheltering!

Visiting the Rez

South Dakota and Montana are home to some of the most starkly beautiful locations on earth: American Indian Reservations, colloquially known as “The Rez.”  American Indian children, like many children, love learning and reading.  Unfortunately, the remote residences located across enormous numbers of acres means that many children lack access to books.

After a winter of book collecting, and a spring of organizing and boxing, we were ready for a summer of travel.The drive across country is very looong.  Annabel searched ridiculous places to stop along the way, and this really helped our attitude,“Only 4 more hours to the Giant Pink Elephant!”“6 more hours to the Jolly Green Giant!” and of course we all loved being welcomed to Welcome!Camping added to our sense of adventure. Giant American flags are popular at the camp grounds!Our first stop was Lame Deer Montana, location of the 445,000-acre Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.  We brought children’s picture books to the Chief Wooden Leg Library, part of Chief Dull Knife College. These books will be shared with 8 Head Start programs located across the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. It was an honor to learn about Chief Wooden Leg who fought in both the Battle of Rosebud and the Battle of Little Big Horn, two locations we have visited several times.We next visited Rosebud Reservation, where we met with our friend Beth,and dropped off many boxes of books that will also be distributed across the reservation, enhancing 20 libraries we helped create at various community centers last summer.Our next two stops were both on Pine Ridge reservation.  First, we went to our favorite school, Red Cloud Indian School.  This successful school was originally started by Red Cloud and the Jesuits.  Its aim is to provide Indian children with an extensive education that equally combines a Catholic education while honoring and adhering to Native American faith practices.  This school also includes a Lakota language immersion program in which children as young as 18 months can learn Lakota as their native language. We have often contributed both books and funds supporting the Lakota language program and we were happy to be back bringing more books.After our stop at Red Cloud School we continued through the Pine Ridge Reservation to Red Shirt Table Elementary School.  Here we met our many of our friends who are working with Laura to create a fun summer camp for children in the Red Shirt Table region.  We brought our usual supply of picture books, along with a few toys.No trip across America would be complete without our travel adventures.  These included attending church at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, Hiking Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Visiting churches and museums in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Spray painting cars at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, Visiting Ye Grand Old Opry in Nashville, Tennessee And riding roller coasters in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.From Sea to Shining Sea: One American Summer.And now, mid-winter, we are making plans to return to work at Summer Camp, and help build houses in the Children’s Village on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. Would you like to join us?

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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