book donations

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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

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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,

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

 

 

Pine Ridge Reservation: Red Shirt Table

By Emma

Hey Siri!  Pull up maps…oh wait…

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Here in South Dakota, as we wandered on and off of the reservations, in search of the correct entrance to Pine Ridge Reservation, we discovered that our cell phone services and online maps let us down. We learned this only after driving hours through undulating lands surrounded by miles of prairie grass and getting lost after driving hour upon hour in the wrong direction.  Learning opportunity!  We had to drag out this huge Atlas, which I hadn’t seen since I was 3, when they were still being used, to navigate where we were going. On the upside, notice there is no problem pulling over on the highway and standing in the middle of the road, bare foot discussing our next move!

 

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Site of Massacre of Wounded Knee – Pine Ridge Reservation

We did finally make it to Pine Ridge Reservation, but getting to Red Shirt Table was another matter…

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We were thrilled to see some friends from back home, and we were welcomed with a picnic lunch and water bottles.  After that it was time to get to work.  We decided to set up the books over 3 picnic tables so that the children could choose their own books.  Here it may look like Quinn is being lazy, actually he is holding onto the books to keep them from blowing away in the constant wind!

The whole trip was made worthwhile when we got to read the children their new personal books

and watch them collect more and more.

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We also got to play with the children on the playground, and in a game of kickball.

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It was really saddening playing with these children, and then learning of their unimaginable situations at home, yet it helped us to understand why the children were so grateful, and it continued to motivate us to help them more.

IMG_0792We were inspired by the determination of this lovely girl to bring home a boxful of books for her younger siblings.  We hope to follow her example!

Reading for Rosebud

 

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The Rosebud Children’s Garden on the prairie

By Claire Langdon

A few months ago, we attended an event held at our local library, Pequot, where Sage, a Lakota Indian who lives on Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, visited. He introduced us to his people’s culture with oral stories and native dances. Yet, despite this cheerful congregation, mission groups from two local churches, Southport Congregational and Trinity, told us of the crippling poverty rampant on the reservation. As education is frequently championed as a portal out of poverty, we decided to help by donating books to the children on South Dakotan reservations to facilitate their academic success, and to introduce them to the “magical awesomeness” of reading!
To make the book donations even more meaningful, and to experience the living conditions of our books’ recipients, we packed up and caravanned to South Dakota.

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Over the span of our trip, we donated 70 boxes of books, each brimming with books on a plethora of topics and a range of reading levels

First stop: Rosebud Reservation

When we arrived in South Dakota, we were struck by the beauty of the landscape, enveloped by never-ending sky. However, the prairie was settled in many ramshackle homes and buildings, illustrating the poverty upon the reservation.

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The Episcopal Mission’s church at Rosebud

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Claire, Chair, and Pierce, Vice-Chair, delivering books to the Episcopalian headquarters

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Brooks Barry, Pierce, Wills, and Emma delivering boxes of books

After meeting with the group from Trinity, we brought the books into the Episcopal offices on the reservation. They are taking the boxes we donated, and are distributing the books to twenty different locations across the reservation. The mission group is building shelves in each community center, so that children all over the reservation, which is about the same size as Maryland, will have access to a library.

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Meeting the Episcopalian mission with our books

Visiting Rosebud was an eye-opening experience. We witnessed the poverty of one of the areas to which we donate books, as well as the gratitude from the people involved. These in-person experiences continue to motivate our mission: to spread quality literature around the world, especially to those less fortunate.

Next stop: Pine Ridge Reservation!

(Y)Our Books Arrive: Ghana & South Africa!

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“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea.” e.e.cummings

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In this case, it is our books that we have found, resurfacing after their long journey at sea.

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Many of you will remember that all summer and fall we packed and sorted thousands of books, ultimately sending 15,000 beautiful children’s books to both Ghana and South Africa.

img_6111These books have a long journey, spending several weeks in metal containers before finally being loaded onto the ships that will carry them across the ocean and to the African continent. From there they must make it through customs and be loaded onto trucks and bump along through towns and villages until they finally reach their intended destination: children who love to read!img_1465

We are so excited to receive some photos of children enjoying these books! It is so much fun to realize that although these children are so very far away, in another sense, we are really all part of one world, enjoying the same stories and jokes and learning about the world from the same books.wbs-african-children-5Today we are truly able to say that we are fulfilling our mission,

“Helping children realize the magical awesomeness of reading!”wbs-african-children-2

Please continue donating children’s books! We have recently received an urgent request from some  parentless children in Kenya who would love some new books. We are working to gather books and help with shipping costs so these children too can enjoy imaginary tales and learn from science and history books.

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With your help we can continue to improve global literacy, at home and around the world. Many thanks, always! The Wonderland BookSavers!