children and community service

Building Solar Powered Digital Libraries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for a winter simple activity?

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

Water Purifiers Success Story

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

Compiled by Wakimwere Arnold, field officer, KCDO

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

ACHIEVEMENT:

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Compiled by Wakimwere Arnold

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

Blog post courtesy of USACF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PPE from California to Connecticut to Uganda

A very generous contribution of cloth and plastic face masks, as well as other Personal Protection Equipment, which will protect the Kyamaganda Community Development Organization (KCDO), arrived in Uganda, shipped from California. The package was prepared by Dr. Eliza Lo Chin, MD, MPH, Executive Director of the American Women’s Hospitals Service, a program of the American Medical Women’s Association, https://www.amwa-doc.org/, and by her friend, Khawaja.

It has taken several months to organize this donation as Dr. Eliza had to get permission from her organization to export these critical PPE items. Khawaja then FedExed the package to Wonderland BookSavers, who then sent the package by DHL to Kampala. From Kampala, Ms. Sarah sent the package by taxi to Kyamaganda, Here at KCDO, the items have been distributed. We continue to work for the safety of our community members during this difficult Covid-19 pandemic. Many thanks to Dr. Eliza Lo Chin, Khawaja and the American Women’s Hospitals Service! And many, many thanks to all our WBS and KCDO supporters around the USA who have generously donated to our GoFundMe page! These contributions provided the funds to ship this package of super-important Covid-19 protective equipment from California to Uganda. Thank you all again, your contributions are really helping so many people!

Our Donations have finally made it to Yemeni Refugee Camps!

We partnered with US-Africa Children’s Fellowship and United Muslim Relief, and several others, to fill two gigantic containers with supplies to aid these refugees from Yemen.  It took many. many months to overcome the huge obstacles that held up delivery of the containers.

Mark writes, “Thank you once again for every blanket, toy, piece of clothing, soccer ball, tarp, toiletry, shoe, houseware, school supply and vitamin that your students collected.  It all makes a difference.  Yemen is being ravaged by the virus.”

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandi.

Pandemic Partnerships

In March, when we realized that Covid-19 was going to create a global pandemic, we immediately reached out to our friends in the Lwengo District of Uganda, worried for their health.  We found that they were most worried about food, “The Starvation Bug.”

The pandemic has created a food crises in many impoverished locations.  Quarantines have shut down both schools and shops.  Markets have been closed, and trucks containing supplies are delayed at every border as drivers must wait days for a negative test before they can enter Uganda. We immediately reached out to help our friends from Kyamaganda Community Development Organization.

As in other countries, schools closed immediately in Uganda.  In KCDO this means that HIV orphans, who live in the local schools were left homeless.  KCDO relocated these children to the local library, a building that WBS had helped restore after last year’s storm.  The children, who are typically fed at school, still lacked food.  We set up a Go Fund Me page, which was very helpful.  Funds from this helped buy the food you see in the picture above.  Each child was given one bag of rice and one bag of beans.  Cooking oil was also purchased.

Families were very worried about their ability to follow the simple edict: wash your hands. How do you wash your hands when there is no running water?

We were able to send 10 Jerry cans filled with Purell.

This woman returns to her home with Jerry cans, using a stocking as a mask.

Food doesn’t last, and as we do not have unlimited money so we were very worried about how we would be able to still help the KCDO community.  Our Ugandan partner, Willy, had an amazing suggestion.  The local government offered to train residents in mask-making, and also offered to purchase homemade masks.  Willy just needed sewing machines and material.  Our Go Fund Me page gave us the resources to purchase two treadle sewing machines and needed fabric.

Our KCDO friends learned how to make masks, and then trained the orphan children so that they could sustain themselves with food, cooking oil, and the petrol needed to distribute the masks throughout the KCDO community.

Funds from selling masks is now providing food which can be distributed by motorcycle.

Rice, beans and cooking oil are distributed throughout the community.

With fuel and funds the KCDO organization is also able to distribute masks and information regarding measures to protect against Covid-19.

Hunger and health continue to be enormous obstacles for KCDO, as families must eat local plants to survive.

We send enormous thanks to all who have contributed to the lives of the families of the Kyamaganda Community Development Organization.

They are so very grateful that you have held them in your hearts, and in return, they hold you in their prayers. We are still helping these families, as we aspire to build a community health center.  We are grateful for all that you can offer, and are leveraging all donations to maximize the benefits that can be realized from your contribution:  Go Fund Me. Thank you!

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!

Tough Mudder Reaches Uganda

Our reach across the divide from one world to another continues to grow.  Today our T-shirt donations, in coordination with US-Africa Children’s Fellowship, reached the Kyamaganda Community Development Organization in Uganda.

As Mark (usacf.net) explained, “Tough Mudder is a for profit organization that runs sports competitions. Basically they set up huge obstacles courses that run for miles. Some of their events run for 24 hours. Contestants run up and down hills, climb over rope walls, splash through mud and crawl on their bellies. They run events across the United States and in England. Up to 400,000 people compete every year. They print about 450,000 T-shirts a year to make sure they have enough. Because I know one of the staff members of Tough Mudder, USACF gets all the extras. We have shipped full 40-foot containers with just their T-shirts in them. 50,000 T-shirts went to refugees in Somalia and 50,000 T-shirts went to refugees in Jordan.”

The children pictured below are all AIDS/HIV positive and face battles far more extreme than any Tough Mudder competition.  We are grateful to play a role in the distribution of these T-shirts to parts of the world that personally know extreme hazards and competition.