kids and community service

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.

Women and Children Benefit from Piggery

Our Make a Splash for Uganda fundraiser provided the needed funding to create a piggery for the Kyamaganda Community Development Organization located in the Lwengo District of Uganda.

The community has been hard at work ever since. The women and children began by planting cassava and other root vegetables to feed the piglets.

Classes in animal husbandry and business economics have been offered to the women, as the piggery is mainly their enterprise.

The men built a water catchment system that will provide clean water for the piglets.  Rain water will run off the roof and into this tank.

They have built stys for 22 piglets, coating the wood with oil and tar to prevent rot.

Finally, the piglets have arrived!

We lack only one thing to complete this story: we are still searching for a qualified individual in the US who can act as an email-mentor to provide additional resources to the KCDO community.

We want to ensure that this first foray into pig farming will be a continuing success story.  If you know of anyone with skills in pig farming, please contact us!

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!

 

Beads help support Baby Heroes Africa

Do you have a hobby that you no longer enjoy? Maybe you have all the parts and pieces in your attic or basement? Recently we were gifted with a massive bead donation.  The collection included everything needed to set up a complete jewelry making operation: beads, wire, tools and more.  We knew this collection could have a huge impact in Zimbabwe, and that the bead collection would provide the opportunity for women to create their own cottage industry.  The impact has actually been even more profound than we imagined.

We sent the beads, with our partner Mark, to Zimbabwe.  He shared them with an organization created to assist premature babies and their mothers, Baby Heroes Africa Foundation.

“Baby Heroes Africa Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2015 by Chengetai Makuni and Dr Norbertta Washaya with the aim of increasing the survival of preterm babies and enhancing their quality of life. Through the provision of technical, clinical and social support we have been able to aid institutions caring for preterm babies as well as the families of preterm babies. Our headquarters is in Bulawayo while our other offices are in Harare and Gweru. We work closely, Mpilo Hospital and United Bulawayo Hospitals, Maphisa Rural Hospital, Gweru Provincial Hospital and Chipinge District Hospital,Parirenyatwa and Harare Hospital.”

Baby Heroes Africa trains volunteers to assist mothers and babies during their stay at the local hospital.  They have included beaded jewelry making as one component of their outreach, making jewelry to sell to support their mission.

Baby Heroes Africa said, “The beads and craft accessories donation helps us to support mothers of preterm babies who spend months on end in the hospital  caring for their babies.”

Baby Heroes Africa also said, “The beading workshops are part of a bigger program called love our preemie mums which focuses on caring for and supporting mothers of preterm babies which in turn increases their capacity to provide that critical care to the babies.”

“Our social support involves giving care packages through “Bundles of Joy” project, to mothers for their babies; these packages include diapers, soap, petroleum jelly, blankets, wraps, clothes, baby tubs or buckets, cotton wool, maternity pads and methylated spirit. It also involves supporting mothers of preterm babies with home visits and skills development to assist them in improving their quality of life and that of their babies.”

Our next container leaves in under a month.  If you have any baby items, beads or other craft projects which you would like to donate to Baby Heroes Africa, please contact us.  We can arrange the donation.

“Giving care packages helps relieve the stress many of the mums have. Most of the mothers are unemployed and single I know you mentioned sending a container in 3 weeks. If there is anyway you can include any of the above listed items we would really appreciate it.”

Naturally, our donation included books for older siblings.

Baby Heroes Africa says, “Thank you once again for everything.”

 

 

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

Reflections: Max Finney by Brooks Langdon

Anything can matter in life, family, friends, school, and even sports. Something that we don’t always realize that is just as important is time. You never know what your next step will be. Sometimes, people wish time away. They want to meet their future and see what happens. They forget, that the present is just as, or more important than the next step in their life.

Humans do not live forever. There is a limit to your time on earth, Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind,” Nathaniel Hawthorne. You only have a certain amount of time to do the opportunities that are given to you in life. Sometimes, your life on earth can be cut short. I had a friend who was in Wyoming on vacation in the summer. He died in a very unfortunate accident at the age of 14 on July 7th, 2018. He lived his life to the fullest even though it was cut short. He was proud to have been admitted to a prestigious Catholic school in Houston, but would never graduate.

My friend Max made a good impression on many people. Even though he is now gone, everybody he met remembers him, because of his kindness and compassion. He was a great lacrosse player. I remember the first day of lacrosse in Texas was scary. I was in 5th grade, and was by far the smallest. He came over to me and we talked, and it was the start of a great friendship with many long-lasting memories.

I remember wrestling on the trampoline. I remember when we went to the Natural Science Museum of Houston. He visited Connecticut over winter. We went sledding on the Patterson golf course and ran over a rabbit skull. I remember going to New York with him and going to Central Park and seeing many other famous places in the city. I remember, later that spring, we saw an Army Navy lacrosse game at West Point, because his brother played at West Point. It went into overtime, and unfortunately, Navy won. I was blessed to share so many other memories with Max. This proves that you should never waste time and always take the opportunities that are given to you. We constantly complain about having to wait, but time slowly ticks away. Once you are elderly, you will look back on your life and wish you had done something worthwhile.

Many people are not granted the same opportunities that we are. For example, people anywhere, even in our own country do not get the chance to see New York City. We take going to New York for granted because we have been there before.

This is why my friend was such a good person. He never took any of his opportunities for granted. When Max visited us he helped our charity, The Wonderland BookSavers run an event in Bridgeport, CT. He helped us with our Destination Imagination play and also put his handprint on the handprint poster along with other kids.

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We decided, since Max would never graduate from his Catholic high school, to create a four-year scholarship for one high school student, attending the Red Cloud Indian School on Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, in his honor. It is called the Max Finney Foundation Scholarship in honor of my friend. The Wonderland BookSavers are paying for it with the money we raised from our annual lemonade stand. The Board of the school decided that it will be granted to a boy who is entering his freshman year, this September, at Red Cloud Indian School. Max lived his life to the fullest and even though he died at such a young age, he still accomplished so much. Never again will I take anything for granted, or wish time away. Thank you, Max, for all of the memories, and I will always try to live up to the example you have set in your own short life.

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Max’s family has established a foundation in his memory.  This foundation provides scholarships for young students, like Max.  If you are interested in learning more, please contact them directly at Max Finney Foundation

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.

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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!

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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?

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

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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!

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

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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.

Our Bibles Reach China

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22: 37-40 KJV)

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Emma carrying a box

Our neighbors are the peoples of the world; and while we recognize that each of us can have only a very small impact, we try to share our love with each person we meet. Together we hope to make many feel joyful and needed.

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Initially when we were approached with a request to send 50 Bibles across the world to China we hesitated. Would the Bibles really reach China? Did the people in China really want Bibles? Really need Bibles?

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But then as we began to do some research we realized that not only is China the country that has the fastest growing Christian population, it is also a country that is religiously intolerant and is persecuting its own citizens, taking down crosses,

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and attempting to destroy churches and jail priests and bishops.

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This made us very sad.

Faced with the potential destruction of their church by government forces, one protestor told the Telegraph,

“A church is a sacred place and we are all brothers and sisters; Christianity has made a big contribution to society in many ways.”

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And so, we joined with many others, and send our prayers for peace and acceptance, along with 50 Chinese Bibles, across the seas, to China.  Join us in our prayer for peace and unity!

It is our hope that President Obama will join us as well!

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               Barack Obama urged to use G20 China visit to fight for persecuted Christians

 

 

 

 

 

ZappRx Partnership Brings Books to New Horizons in Africa

Our community partner, Zoe Barry, Founder and CEO of ZappRx,, recently traveled to Uganda and Rwanda.

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Kampala, a large city in Uganda

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Roadside market, Rwanda

Zoe traveled light, with only 33 pounds of allowable packed luggage, she made the most of it, img_7565

packing paperback stories, coloring books and crayons

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for distribution to children throughout her trip.

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Note: Cautionary tales promoting chastity are posted on the closed shutters when this “dialy” school is done for the day.

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Young girl in foreground is balancing a machete on her head. Obviously more coordinated than most US toddlers!

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Armed guards accompanied Zoe and her companion as they delivered books.

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Everyone loves to see themselves!

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Zoe, delivering books to members of the Batwa Pygmy Tribe.

Ahh…Africa…

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Wonderland BookSavers’ 2016 Quote of the Year

Written by Madeline

In August of 2012, Claire, Emma and Brooks Morgan and I read A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. The four of us had just recently formed into a book club, and this was the first book we read as a club. We decided to complete a project after each book we read, and we designated a quote-banner as our project for A Single Shard.

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Left to right: Claire, Emma, Madeline, and Brooks Morgan work on their “A Single Shard” banners

We chose to emblazon our banners with an inspiring quote from A Single Shard which goes as follows. “Your mind knows that you are going to Songdo. But you must not tell your body. It must think, one hill, one valley, one day at a time. In that way, your spirit will not grow weary before you have even begun to walk.”

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It has become our annual tradition to choose an inspiring quote. Our quotes are always from a book our club has read or from an inspirational person we have read about together. Last Friday, we completed our fifth annual quote banner.

This year, we chose a quote from Phillipians 4:13 which reads “For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”

We chose this quote since our faith has been instrumental in our charity, both in a sense that it has inspired many of our projects, and because many of our community partners are churches.

After taping the banner down on table so it would not slide as we worked, we began to transcribe the quote onto our banners in pencil, and trace the pencil in marker.

We chose to make the first letter of the quote an illuminated letter, since we learned how to make illuminated letters and manuscripts in preparation for teaching a medieval camp at the beginning of summer.illuminated%22f%22Our banners were enhanced with decorations such as a bookshelf with titles of books we have read together.booksonbanner.jpgOur team and our charity has grown significantly since we made our first quote banner. Each year we have continued this custom, and each year our banners inspire us to new heights. Only a few months after we began our book club in 2012, we had transformed into Wonderland BookSavers, and a few years after founding Wonderland BookSavers, we have transformed into a 501(c)(3), Wonderland BookSavers, Inc.

We look forward to another year of reading and donating books one hill, one valley, and one day at a time!4doingquote