A gift of thanks left behindby kenya on Jul. 02, 2011, under Life
Dispatch from Kenya
June 28, 2011
By Annie Odell, Miramonte High School
Note from Fred Roberts, St. Gregory Dean of Students: For several months leading up to going to Kenya, I communicated frequently with Annie about her idea of building a book cart to donate to one of the schools here. I was a bit skeptical given the magnitude of her idea, not to mention that none of the schools we work with have walkways on which to move such a cart. We discussed these challenges but her passion was not to be denied. She collected more than 200 pounds of books, which she brought with her to Kenya. She drew plans for the cart that she scanned and sent me prior to her arrival. I found a carpenter near Batian’s View to create this unique contraption. On June 28 the cart was delivered to Gitinga Primary School, where Annie had been teaching the previous two weeks. Gitinga does have two new classrooms for the kindergarten students, and floors as smooth as glass. The sidewalks to the other classrooms will come later. After filling only half of the cart with the books she donated (we will work on the other half of the cart for next year), Annie read the following letter to the faculty. If you haven’t shed a tear while reading the previous dispatches, this one will do the trick:
Dear Gitinga Teachers and School,
First off I want to say that it has honestly been my pleasure to work with all of you these past two weeks. Six months ago, when talk of traveling to Kenya first began, I never believed that I would be sitting here now writing to you reflecting on how much of an impact these weeks have had on my life. Each one of the teachers and students that I have gotten to interact with have left a mark on me, and memories that I will cherish forever. The love of learning that is so abundant among the students here has amazed me and the first-hand experiences that I have had teaching my own lessons have inspired me to donate my mobile library cart to your school.
The idea of creating this library cart first emerged about seven months ago, sitting around my backyard with my family and friends trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do to achieve my Girl Scout Gold Award. The Gold Award is the most prestigious honor you can achieve in Scouting. It requires a scout to identify a need in their community, whether local, national or international, discover a solution, and leave something behind. Finally, after much thought, Africa became a topic of interest. Our family friends, the Colewell’s, being good family friends with Fred Roberts, began telling us all about Kenya and Batian’s View. Knowing that literacy is a problem in many Kenyan schools, I knew then that I wanted to center my project on improving literacy rates in Kenyan Schools. Back then my project was a dream. Now, six months later and after more than 200 hours of planning and a lot of faith, my project became a reality. In those months I was able to collect children’s books from Girl Scout troops all around Orinda, with the help of Margot (my sister) and her friend Liz Berndt. We also raised more than $500 towards the cart and with the help and support of my parents, found a way to ship these books and myself to Kenya.
I can honestly say that my experience here in Kenya has strengthened me both physically and emotionally. In the beginning and at some points throughout the trip, I wished I could go back to the comfort of my life in California. However, I forced myself out of my comfort zone, forged ahead, and benefited greatly. This experience has definitely changed the way I will look at my life now, and how I will look at my life in the future.
Gitinga teachers and students, I am so thankful for all you have provided me. All of you invited me into your school with open arms and welcoming smiles from day one. Your hospitality and kindness have given me an experience that I will never forget.
It is only right that my Girl Scout Gold Award library cart be donated to your school so that I may give back to you a small portion of what you have given to me. The books have all been donated with love and the hope that the students’ love of learning and reading never dies. I pray that this cart influences these children’s lives as much as they have influenced mine.
A thousand thank-yous,
Miramonte High School