Author’s Note: This is a special story and these kids can use our help. I hope you’ll join me in sending them your used, unused books, games, toys, stuffed animals, and more. This is when giving counts the most. I will start a drive soon to raise money for a laptop for them. When that time comes, your contributions will be much appreciated. BE SURE to look at the photo links in this column — they’ll break your heart and make you feel wonderful at the same time!
I’ve learned repeatedly in my life that whenever I give to the world, whether by direct action or donations, I get back so much more than the effort or money involved. This is a life lesson that our kids should learn as so many of them, here in America, are living the “easy life” with no sense of the hardships most of the world has to bear and that most of mankind has historically suffered.
One of the unexpected benefits of my writing career and now my radio show is the opportunity to meet and interact with people I’d never have otherwise encountered. My “A Dad’s Point-of-View” Facebook page has around 2,500 “members” (or “likes” as they call it) from literally all over the world. Over 35 different countries are represented with many from Africa (why? I don’t know).
I actively participate on my Facebook page by welcoming every member with a thank-you note and inviting their participation on the page with, for instance, the suggestion to join one of the many ongoing discussions. On one occasion, I was invited to “chat” with some kids from Ghana. About 20 minutes later, I discovered I was chatting with two girls, seven and ten, who lived at a school in the small city of Agona Swedru. They were poor on a level most of us don’t understand.
Their charm in the chat was instantaneous. Learning that they were so young and so relatively comfortable in English only enhanced my curiosity. But, sadly, it also arose my suspicions as people in Africa via Craigslist have scammed me in the past. I continued the chat looking for an opening to test my cynicism. It came up indirectly when they responded to a question of mine in expressing the wish to have more books, as they had few in their tiny school.
I was hooked. Between their photos, their chatting, the exchanges I had with their father, Frank, who was the founder of this school, and the information on their various Facebook pages, I believed in them. And, I promised that my family would send them some books. The Facebook page for the kids is simply called AfricaZebras if you’d care to find them there.
Coincidentally, my family was packing for a move to another house. All of us have struggled to rid ourselves of our collective stashes of stuff. It brings to mind the great George Carlin routine on stuff. No doubt we had too much stuff! Since these girls were in their pre-teens (mostly 7-10), many of the books my boys no longer were interested in were already too “old” for them, or too boyish.
My younger son, David, and I went to our local library where they have a regular Saturday used book sale and we bought age-appropriate books for the girls, including several classics (Mark Twain), Dr. Suess, and some Disney picture books. Among our books to give away was a really nice old Bible as well.
I thought shipping a box to Africa wouldn’t be too costly until I did the research. The cost of shipping any large box was prohibitive but I did discover that we could send a medium-sized “flat-rate” box via the U.S. Postal Service for $56, which was still not cheap, but within our means.
My wife went through her books and found several that were also worthwhile, we felt, to include. I found some hand-crank flashlights, and some small chatzskies (nick-nacks) we thought they might also enjoy. I quickly filled up two boxes and sent them off to Ghana.
Shortly afterward, I asked David if he’d put together a box and see what other things, in addition to books, he might have to give to our new friends. He came to my desk a couple of hours later with an over-flowing box of books, small toys, games, magazines, and assorted felt-tip colored pens. We chose what we both believed were the best of the bunch and carefully arranged them all in the box to fit as much as possible.
While we were doing this, he looked up at me and said something like, “You know, Dad, this is a great thing you’re doing.” I looked at him and quickly replied, “No, it’s a great thing we’re doing.”
A couple of weeks later I heard from our new friends who were overjoyed with the first two boxes that had arrived. They sent a bunch of photos showing them getting the boxes from the post office, carrying them home, and some of the kids reading or playing with the contents. The photos are worth more than the small cost to us of sending the three boxes. You can find them and my first writing about this here. You can also view the photos on my Picassa album and see them bigger.
The feelings my whole family had upon viewing these photos were indescribable. My wife had just come home and was stressed from a hard day at work when I called her over to take a look. She immediately softened and began planning all the additional things we could send them. I want to get a drive going to raise money for a laptop to send them. Is someone up for leading this effort?
In the meantime, if you have that pile of stuff/books/toys that your kids no longer need, please consider sending them to the Africa Zebras:
P.O Box 719
And, trust me, the cost to you will be nothing compared to the value to them and the heartfelt good feelings you and your family will receive!