Jersey volunteers look to make a difference in the lives of South African
4-18, 2007.- Local New Jersey middle school and high school students are seeking to make a
difference in South African schools that are without school supplies, heat
The students spent part of their summer vacation visiting historic locations
and schools in South Africa where they distributed over 50,000 books and dozens
of boxes of school supplies. The books will be distributed throughout schools
and communities (as well as an orphanage) in rural areas outside of Johannesburg,
as well as to the Kagiso and Soweto districts in the city.
trip was organized during the first two weeks of the August school vacation
by The Global Literacy Project, Inc. (GLP), which is carrying out a multi-year
project to give South African schools in the area literacy resources. This
particular GLP trip came out of the work of Pingry school sophomore Emma
Carver and her sister Chloe, along with their friends Christina Vanech
and Charlotte Steele. GLP sponsored a booth at an “alternative gift mall” at Christ Church in Summit, New Jersey. Emma and her mother (Anne DeLaney) were
volunteering at the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) booth during this
event. As GLP’s and MADD’s booths were next to one another, Emma and GLP representatives Wendel Thomas,
Olubayi Olubayi and Denniston Bonadie ended up talking and exchanging information
about their respective programs. Emma was intrigued about the possibility
of organizing a small book drive among her family, friends, and schoolmates.
this serendipitous encounter, Emma took the idea of a book drive to her friends
at Pingry School (a private K-12 institution in New Jersey) recruiting her
sister Cloe and friend Christina Vanech to assist her. Soon Charlotte Steele,
attending another school nearby, was inspired by the goal and what began
as a small collection in one school morphed into a multi-school spring semester project that saw their families, friends, classmates
and neighbors all working together to collect some 56,000 elementary to high
school books. This feat is all the more astonishing when considering the fact that it was
accomplished within seven months of encountering GLP. With that success, the students decided that they wanted to see where the books
actually ended up in Africa.
to help create a community learning center was a primary goal of the trip.The
Thelma Tate Library and Community Center was established in Witfontein--named
after deceased Rutgers Librarian Thelma Tate who was a co-founding board
member of GLP, the center will serve as a nucleus for GLP literacy initiatives
in that region.
from a storage building sitting unused for several years they were able to
create a wonderful space appropriate for community learning.
28 volunteers, 12 middle school and high school students along with their
parents and three teachers, from a half dozen New Jersey schools were inspired
by the level of kinship their South African hosts shared with each other.Family
and community were of demonstrable importance as well as the commitment
by the adults to see the next generation get the best access to education
first visiting the schools, many of the volunteers felt worried that providing
these extra school supplies was not significant because the needs within
the education system were so vast and numerous. One elementary school that
they visited had no operational heating plant and was so cold its students
had to wear their jackets and scarves all day.
Additional school supplies seemed a small drop in the bucket compared with
the rest of the obstacles, such as over-crowding; underpaid teachers; a lack
of desks and classrooms; and too much sickness and poverty. However, the visitors
gradually felt reassured and encouraged by the students and teachers' outlook
and belief of what their support can provide for them. Dramatically, a majority
of students in one school owned less that two reading books at home and it
was with much excitement that each child received 2-3 books all for themselves
to take home.
Jersey middle school student Neeraj Shekhar said he felt inspired by the
way students responded to him as he was passing out the book gifts.
participants came to realize that for these students, interacting and
corresponding with an individual outside of their community, across the
world will also provide hope and incentive to work hard toward a better
Learning Expeditions are always about a travel experience that takes you
beyond a destination's tourist attractions. We aim that our volunteers
should discover that in addition to having wildlife and natural beauty,
Africa also wears a very human face. Part of the learning experience of the trip was the opportunity to sit down with
ordinary Africans who struggle, dream, play, work hard and live a different
life than the visitor to Africa.
really had exceptional volunteers with us. Mike Verzi and Chip Carver led
a team that worked up 11 p.m. at night for three days in order to rehabilitate
the interior of the building. Ann D'Innocenzo, librarian from Pingry Middle
School in New Jersey, led another sub-group of volunteers to our project
schools where they trained teachers to install the new book collections with
an easy to use, color coded shelving system.
brought books but also they trained teachers on strategies for English
as second language learners as well as on how to incorporate reading and
reference materials into existing curriculum. Ms. Skyller Walkes, Senior
Implementation Consultant at Kaplan K12 Learning Services led the teacher
training session with a tremendous response from participants.
participating teachers said increasing their capabilities would mean that
in turn their students will be motivated to attend classes, learn English
and succeed. They said that despite all of the problems, their students
have the same aspirations as any other child. It's just that there is a
need for resources and encouragement. This demonstratable friendship from
their American counterparts will be added motivation for them to overcome