Annie Leck, 14, a ninth-grader at Harper Junior High School, helps customers at a recent book swap at Pioneer Elementary School. From left are the Fullmer family: Amelia, 5; Linus, 3; mom Fenna; and Madeline, 7. Annie and her brother Austin raised funds through the swap to help support an orphanage in Nyeri, Kenya. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

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Local teens think outside the box to help others

By From page A1 | June 05, 2012

It’s been said that it takes money to make money.

However, sometimes all that’s really needed is a little imagination and innovation.

Austin and Annie Leck have relied on both plus the kindness of others in their efforts to raise money to benefit Upendo Children’s Centre in Nyeri, Kenya.

The sibling duo was introduced to the orphans two years ago during a family trip. They originally were slated to visit a school, so the Davis teens organized a ball drive to take basketballs, soccer balls, etc., to the children.

“We got a lot of balls and Frisbees,” said Austin, 17, who is finishing his junior year at Davis High. “We let all the air out of them to fit them into two duffel bags, and we got a couple of pumps.”

While in Kenya, they learned the school was closed but an orphanage was nearby that they could visit.

“We gave out a couple of the balls to kids on the street, and then to the orphans,” said Austin, who was 14 at the time. “To see the kids brighten up, I felt so good. It’s a good feeling to see the direct effect.”

Annie, 14, agreed: “It was super good at putting things into perspective. I didn’t really understand poverty until I saw it first-hand.

“It definitely motivated me to help them in any way that I could,” the Harper Junior High ninth-grader added.

Before the plane even lifted off from Kenya, Austin and Annie were brainstorming ideas of what they could do to continue to help the children of Upendo. Somewhere between the Ivory Coast and San Francisco, they came up with several ideas that coalesced into a book swap.

The book swap turned out to be a win-win situation.

“By giving a couple of hours, you’ve done a huge thing,” said Austin, who plans to study biology/medicine and help out in Third World nations. “Supplying reading material to elementary school students and also raising money for the orphanage.”

The Lecks have raised $720 in two book swaps, while spending very little money out of pocket. Which is why this brother and sister agree it’s an easy fundraiser that other children could use to help their charities or schools.

The basic steps were:

* Get permission from school officials to use multipurpose room;

* Make fliers to pass around to neighbors and classmates asking for book donations;

* Collect books;

* Create posters for school to remind students, and

* On swap day, put books in some sort of order.

“Our teacher helped us get six or eight volunteers, who helped make posters,” said Annie, noting that with their previous fundraiser they had raised a total of $1,510 for Upendo. “The day of the event, you just show up and organize books by age level, so it’s just not random.”

Individuals who bring in a book to swap trade their book for a ticket. When they have found their new book, they hand in the ticket. If you don’t have a book to trade, you can buy one at a discounted price. Additionally, there was a chance to make direct donations to Upendo.

“It’s really easy to start up when you don’t have a lot of money,” Austin said. “If you use your imagination and creativity, you can do something in your community.”

The Lecks also have done a great deal of volunteer work in their local community — helping with STEAC drives in elementary school — and throughout California.

“I think (getting out of your comfort zone) completely helps,” said Austin, who helps his church serve Thanksgiving meals to the homeless in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. “Usually, a lot of people have the mindset that it’s scary or unhealthy. When you do an event like that, when you’re giving good, you see the other side of people.”

Austin quickly points to other teenagers who are making a difference, like Zach Hunter, who in seventh grade founded LooseChange2LosenChains. The grassroots organization to stop modern-day slavery has grown into an organization that now funds others organizations.

“A single idea put into action,” Austin said. “For us, we just did this as a way to help the orphanage.”

Annie added: “You can change someone’s world, maybe not the world. Any positive impact you do can change the world.”

— Reach Kim Orendor at [email protected]

Kim Orendor

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