kids service projects

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!

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.

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!

Little Labs…Big Imagination

Fairfield University hosts teachers from Bridgeport and beyond, creating a writing center that seeks to teach young children the joys of reading and creative writing. Our friend, Gina, asked us to contribute books that could be distributed throughout Bridgeport classrooms, enabling children to have better access to quality literature. We packed up 1,100 books, and brought them to the teachers.

Gina set up the books as a help-yourself free book shop, allowing the teachers to select books that would be a great fit for their classrooms.  We are working with Gina to bring, along with books, some of the creative writing skills developed in Little Labs…Big Imagination to the Cheyenne River reservation this coming summer.

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.”

 

 

Making a Splash for Uganda

Our friends from the Kyamaganda Community Development Organization asked us to help them build a sustainable pig farm so that they could enjoy food and provide themselves with a source of income.
We decided that we would dedicate ourselves to this seemingly impossible task.  How were we, sitting here in the US, going to build a pig farm in Uganda?

We began with a pool party fund raiser, A Piggery Party: Make A Splash for Uganda, and invited all our friends from our community.

We wanted our donation requests to be fun, and not too intimidating. 

We took a box of envelopes and numbered them 1-100.  We spent several weeks decorating them.

And we attached them to our board. Under the board was a picture of the women and children we hoped to help.Soon we were ready to host our party.  We served hot dogs and lemonade.

Each guest was asked to choose an envelope.  They could donate the amount of the number on the envelope.  We included our favorite book quotes as book markers, inside each envelope.

With so much support from our community, we were able to raise the funds needed to build a piggery!

And the Kyamaganda Community Development Organization in Masaka Uganda is able to start construction.

And now they are growing the food needed to feed piglets and have supplies to build stys.

Miracles are possible!

 

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

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.”

Shard bookcover

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