When sixth-graders at Willett Elementary School learned school children in the Lower Nyakach region of Kenya had little more than outdated newspapers to read in the classroom, they decided to take action.
After all, said Annabelle Barrett, “We have a lot of books that aren’t being used. So we decided to send them (to Kenya).”
That was a couple of months ago, and since then, students at Willett and five other schools — North Davis and Pioneer elementary schools and Da Vinci, Emerson and Holmes junior high schools — have been hard at work collecting books and monetary donations and spreading the word in the community about their organization, Chapters Change Children.
The group’s goal is to collect 4,000 books and $4,000 (to pay for shipping) by the end of March.
They’ve teamed up with the Sunset Rotary Club of Davis, which is managing the funds and will ship the books; the Rotary Club of Kisumu, Kenya, which will oversee distribution of the books to schools in Kenya; and Raman and Harry Kandola of KTL Transportation in West Sacramento, which has donated warehouse space to store the books until shipment.
Last month, youthful Chapters Change Children representatives appeared before the school board to request board members’ endorsement for their project. They received it.
In a Davis Enterprise letter to the editor, board members announced that the school district will donate surplus textbooks to the project and encouraged the community at large to “support … this inspiring humanitarian effort.”
This isn’t the first time Willett students have spearheaded an effort to help their counterparts in Kenya. Last year, sixth-graders collected eyeglasses to ship over, so the adults in need of vision correction could help students with their school work.
“This year we wanted to do more,” said Willett student Ryan Fisk.
After learning that students had only old newspapers to read, he said, they decided to help upgrade the schools’ libraries. To that end, students are collecting books of all kinds for children in grades K-12. And while chapter books especially have been pouring in, textbooks are at the top of the most-wanted list, Fisk explained.
Any grade level, any subject would be welcome, he said.
“Anything we can get.”
Money to ship those heavy books is a close second on the list of donations, students said.
While it cost $1,000 to ship all the eyeglasses last year, students noted that books are a lot heavier. That’s why they’re suggesting a donation of a dollar for every book donated.
So far, Willett students alone have raised more than $500 for the cause, helped out by chores students have taken on to raise funds — everything from mowing lawns to baby-sitting to selling hot chocolate.
Fisk and classmate Ethan Park set up a hot chocolate stand at Arroyo Park recently and brought in $80 for the cause. Other students — like Vera Resendez, Brooke Doten and Jessica Siu — plan to hold a bake sale and possibly a garage sale to raise more.
Willett student Preston Hubka urged community members to participate by bringing their donations of books (including dictionaries, atlases and even maps) as well as money, to the front office at Willett Elementary, 1207 Sycamore Lane, or any of the other participating schools. Checks should be made payable to Davis Sunset Rotary with “Chapters Change Children” in the note line. They also may be mailed to Davis Sunset Rotary, P.O. Box 2112, Davis, CA 95617.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy