By Kevin Whiteford
Chapters Change Children is a project created to send surplus California school textbooks to schools in the Lower Nyakach region of Kenya. The project was inspired by local elementary school students who worked with our club last year to raise money to send reading glasses to the elderly in the same region.
The students had learned that students in this impoverished area of Kenya have no books in their schools and asked if we could organize a new project to send books. Our initial goal was to raise $4,000 to send 4,000 donated textbooks to Kenya.
We partnered with a Rotary club in Kisumu, Kenya, which agreed to receive the books and distribute them to local schools. The Kisumu club agreed to use a duty-free certificate to bring the books into Kenya without the need to pay import duties. The Kisumu club also will distribute donated non-textbooks collected by the kids to children in Kenya free of charge.
Students from three Davis elementary schools kicked off the project by making a presentation to the Davis school board asking for its support. The board unanimously passed a resolution of support and sent a letter to the editor of The Davis Enterprise endorsing the project and encouraging support from the entire local community. The board also gave its official approval of the fundraising project in the schools.
The kids named the project Chapters Change Children, organized themselves, created a logo and designed fliers. The students at each site were supported and inspired by teachers, but largely ran the fundraising themselves.
The children found they each had talents to contribute to the project. They came together in ways they hadn’t expected as they worked together toward a common noble goal. The kids also learned the satisfaction of service above self.
The students were very committed and creative in their fundraising. They held bake sales, ran lemonade stands, worked odd jobs and even held a poetry reading with rock and roll intermissions. Three elementary schools, three junior high schools and the Davis Interact club participated in the fundraising.
The kids started work in January, and by the end of May they had raised $6,500 to pay the cost of shipping a 20-foot container of books from Davis to Kisumu. The Davis students also sought donations of non-textbooks that could be given to the students in Kenya to take home. This was in addition to the textbooks that would go to the schools. The students collected about 4,000 non-textbooks. One of the students obtained a donation of warehouse space from his parent’s trucking company, KTL Transportation in West Sacramento, where the books were accumulated and stored until they were ready for shipping.
We obtained a donation of 21 pallets of obsolete and surplus textbooks and teaching materials from the Woodland Unified School District. We also received donations of textbooks from the Lincoln School District and a school in Elk Grove that heard about our project.
The Kisumu Rotary club encouraged us to also send college-level books, if we could get them. Nurses at Woodland Memorial Hospital got together and donated textbooks from their college nursing programs. We also received a pallet of college textbooks from the UCD Bookstore. We organized work parties to at the warehouse to sort, organize and palletize the books for shipping.
Rotarians, Rotaractors, teachers, a school librarian and school children and their parents all worked together, and enjoyed the fellowship of a community project. We shipped two pallets containing the 4,000 non-textbooks, one pallet of college-level textbooks and nursing program textbooks, and 13 pallets of textbooks for K-12 classes.
All told, we shipped about 12,000 textbooks to Kenya. They left the Port of Oakland on June 30, 2013, and arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, on Sept. 3, 2013.
About five pallets of the books we had received from the Woodland School District were Spanish language materials, which are not useful in Kenya. We donated those books to a library being constructed in an impoverished area of Haiti by a nonprofit UCD student organization named Ann Prepare Lavni.