kids and community service

Hazy-Lazy-Summer Days 2021

This summer, despite Covid quarantines and many closed borders, we still found opportunities to share books and supplies with our neighbors, both near and far. All our activities are ongoing, however current initiatives are in bold.

We were very grateful when author Reshma Sapre reached out to us and donated 82 cases of brand-new beautiful books based upon Indian myths and tales.

Here are two: In the Indian Night Sky and The Traveler, the Tiger and the Jackal. The illustrations are exquisite and the tales have universal appeal.  New books are helpful as some of our recipients will only accept new books as part of their donation initiative. 

After being named as official Kindess Crusaders, We received several cases of Kindness in the Neighborhood by Wendy Littlefield.

We brought cases of Reshma’s books to the Pequot Library Teacher’s Tent.  This tent is open to teachers of the Bridgeport Public school system and provides teachers with the opportunity, each summer, to choose new books for their classroom. 

We then traveled throughout Southern Vermont, bringing cases of both Reshma’s and Wendy’s books to medical centers that partner with Reach Out and Read. Reach Out and Read is a literacy initiative which partners with doctors to provide free books to children who lack access to books.  As part of the medical visit, doctors will help parents understand the importance of reading to their child. Children and their parents can then choose a book from the Reach Out and Read supply. We will continue to provide Reach Out and Read with new books, when requested.

We built more BridgePi digital libraries, this time our BridgePi libraries can be powered either with electricity, or be solar powered.  As you can see below, each BridgePi is connected to a battery pack that is wired to a solar panel, providing 6-8 hours of constant usage. WiFi enabled devices can download materials from up to 50 feet away. These devices have been essential during Covid as the schools in Uganda remain closed. Due to school closure, the Ugandan Ministry of Education provided digital editions of all school materials from Kindergarten through Grade 12. 

We were able to add the Ugandan educational materials to the BridgePi chip, greatly enhancing the usefulness of the digital library. We sent 3 solar powered BridgePi digital libraries, each containing over 1,000 books, to Kyamaganda Development Organization (KCDO), Lwengo District, Uganda.

We received a grant of $1,000 that paid for shipping our devices, and allowed us to fund a high-quality projector, screen and blackout curtains for the KCDO library in Lwengo District, Uganda. We are now working to source and add O-level and A-level practice exams to the chip.

KCDO was able to attract several summer interns, some in the US and some in Europe.  We were able to work with them via WhatsApp, sharing some fundraising and donation ideas.  KCDO received monetary donations from some interns. Sydney, from California, received hundreds of donated cloth masks which she shipped to us.  We wrapped our BridgePi devices in these masks and shipped them to KCDO.

Throughout the summer, we continued to organize our garage, pack and label books, and clothing. We also traveled to various schools to pick up additional books and science lab supplies. As soon as the borders open, we are ready to once again ship to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda!

With help from CT lawyer, Kelsie, we were able to assist KCDO with a legal agreement that transferred a 2-acre parcel of land from the Ugandan government to KCDO, for the purpose of building a medical center, library and playground complex. Additional funds contributed by JF and Zoë will allow KCDO to grade and fence the property, preparing it for construction (more funds still needed for the next phase!)

Together, we and KCDO, are working with Operational International and Project C.U.R.E to acquire needed medical supplies. 

We are most grateful to Bob for funding food and school fees of the 35 KCDO orphans whom we have been supporting for the past few years. The funding provides education from September 2021-December 2022. We are working with Willy on a “learning partner” system that will pair each KCDO child with a US student, to encourage friendship and success.

John, from Von Steuben high school in Chicago, sent us 100 beautifully written and illustrated books from his French 2 students, representing their final projects.  We are looking for French-speaking children who will enjoy these books.

We are excited to learn that Mark and Sheku Mansaray will be meeting with MIT students to discuss 3D printing of protheses for amputees residing in Sierra Leone.  This is part of the learning center project Mark and Sheku initiated last year, and to which we were able to contribute. Being able to create protheses on location in Sierra Leone would be invaluable to the many victims of the Civil War. We hope to be able to help with this initiative.

And our last summer endeavor that we continue to work on: funding a cow for the KCDO orphans, so they can have milk.  We’re almost there! Maybe we can send a cow by Christmas!

Contact us if you are interesting in assisting us as we move into fall. We hope to hear from you!

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.”