kids and community service

Thank you Berkeley Carroll School

by Sebastian Zuba

When I joined the Wonderland BookSavers team in 2017, I was the only member who didn’t live in Connecticut, and we immediately knew that one of the best ways I could support our efforts would be to expand our reach for acquiring books. One of the first schools in Brooklyn that I called was Berkeley Carroll, and from the very beginning the librarians there have been eager to help our cause! Berkeley Carroll is a K-12 school with a big heart and a lot of libraries (!) and Ms. Kris Hartley-Maneri, Ms. Kendra Barbary, Ms. Briar Sauro, Ms. Mimi Stauber, and Ms. Anna Murphy are the most wonderful librarian-heroes that Wonderland BookSavers could ever ask for!

The wonderful Berkeley Carroll librarians!

Every year, these amazing librarians cull through their incredible collections and designate any surplus or remaindered books for Wonderland BookSavers and then carefully pack them into heavy-duty book boxes. Because there are four libraries in the three different buildings, this usually means my sister and I do about 4 huge pick-ups every year!  

The amazing first grade teacher Ms. Cuba!

Since it’s Brooklyn and there are a lot of stairs and usually only one small service elevator in each building, the equally wonderful Mr. Hicham and his maintenance staff, help bring the books out to the street and then we load as many into our car at a time as we can! This takes a lot of coordinating and a lot of time and we are so grateful to everyone at Berkeley Carroll for making this happen!

The incredible Mr. Hicham, Mr. José and Mr. Salvador!

So far, books from Berkeley Carroll have gone to schools and community centers in need right here in NYC and Connecticut, as well as the Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Reservations in South Dakota, and, with the help of the US-Africa Children’s Fellowship, all the way to Uganda, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Somalia. Wonderland BookSavers is a community that can only operate with a lot of helping hands along the way, and we are so lucky to have the amazing and generous staff of the Berkeley Carroll School on our team.

Lower school pick up

My grandmother has a sign in her kitchen with a quote that’s attributed to Gandhi that says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I recently read that this famous quote is actually a paraphrase and what Gandhi actually said was, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.”

My grandmother’s sign

What I like about this original quote is the greater emphasis on how each individual change can in fact effect a world of individual changes and that is exactly what is so amazing about Wonderland BookSavers. We’re all just doing one small part but together we can be a world of change.

Even though kids weren’t at school, the librarians still packed up books during Covid!

Thank you Ms. Kris, Ms. Kendra, Ms. Briar, Ms. Mimi, Ms. Anna and all the Berkeley Carroll staff for working so hard to be a world of change with us!

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!

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