Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Author Walks Across Kenya

My friend and colleague, author Eric Walters, has an amazing amount of energy. He invites you and your school to join him and a film maker as they, together with 4 orphans, walk across the Rift Valley of Kenya. 
They will blogging as they walk and those doing the blogging will include Eric, his daughter Julia, Connor, and the four orphans who are accompanying them on the journey – Keli, Baraka, Mutuku and Mulwa.

Eric invites your schools and students to join them as they start in the Internal Displacement Camp and walk 200 km through the Rift Valley, into Nairobi, and then continue up into the mountains of Kikima where their Children’s Residence – the Rolling Hills Residence – is located.  Along the way they will stop at other orphanages (including one where children go when their mothers are imprisoned), walk through lion country, travel through the largest slum in all of Africa, visit the elephant orphanage and giraffe feeding station (where they will be met by 60 orphans who are coming down to Nairobi for the day – none of these children have ever seen an elephant or a lion), and in the end celebrate with a birthday party for 140 orphans, a food distribution day for 400 orphans, a ceremony at the school when they receive their yearly school supplies, and the official opening of the new Rolling Hills Residence.

Eric says "Please come and join us as we walk home and find out about the situation on the ground for orphans in Kenya."

website: www.ericwalters.net
philanthropic work: www.creationofhope.com

Follow me on Twitter: @EricRWalters

Saturday, April 28, 2012

TRENCHTOWN READING CENTRE, Kingston, Jamaica Education Centre & Community Library

In the heart of one of the most challenged cities in the world, Kingston Jamaica, is a ray of light for young people that continually shines brighter. The Trenchtown Reading Centre, located on the same block as Bob Marley's yard, opened 19 years ago. Created by Roslyn Ellison and members of the community it is unique - a first of its kind in an area polarized by persistent poverty and local tribal politics and a very challenging place to grow up. The Centre plays an important role in helping break the negative cycle of illiteracy and marginalization by providing relevant and accessible resources and programming to realize more positive alternatives. It has become an oasis which gives hope, continuity, nurtures talent and changes lives, a place where life is enriched by reading, learning, creating & sharing. The TrenchTown Reading Centre is an impressive project which is going strong but is in need of support. The Centre’s programs focus on literacy, creative learning, skill building, developing critical thinking and self-esteem. The Centre encourages original thought - building confidence and stimulating the creative process. Drawing on children’s experiences and culture to help them to learn with understanding. Creative arts are routinely woven into the learning process. Using the library’s extensive materials they provide a comprehensive range of activities for all ages and grade levels. Art, Cultural and Social programs develop skills and ensure positive experiences and outlets for the children to express the impact of their surroundings and hopes for their future The Centre's goal is to provide children with enjoyable learning experiences that have a positive impact on their self- confidence, social skills, create higher expectations and new approaches to learning. The Centre aims to provide them with skills, fresh knowledge, abilities and to broadening their life experience. The Children’s Corner gives the children freedom to choose books, relax and share with their friends, be read to and read to others. Many children and youths, readers and non-readers enjoy the books. The unique setting helps inspire them to learn and see reading as a fun and positive experience … creating lifelong fluent readers! The Centre provides a welcoming, inclusive, safe and positive environment. The site now has two buildings – the Library & Tutorial room and an adjacent building providing classroom, performance and meeting space…as well as an outside reading pavilion … all set in a lovely garden that the children help maintain. Illiteracy rates are as high as 70%. Recent research shows that the simple best bet to literacy is the Volume of Reading Time and Exposure to a Variety of material, coupled with consistent guided reading and practice. A Guided Reading program provides support, helping with reading strategies, decoding, connotative skills, comprehension and modeling as they read. Consistent practice and guidance, in small groups and 1-1, is important element in developing literate, confident, fluent readers. Founder/director Roslyn Ellison says " ..we need to adjust and amplify our focus on language as we are working with a population where teaching English literacy is, in fact, teaching English as a second language (ESL). Our experience is that Guided Reading coupled with solo, buddy reading and language arts activities has quick and positive results- improved literacy, thinking skills and self-confidence, learning with understanding and a continued interest in learning." "Exposure to a wide variety and volume of materials and reading time provides a platform for practice of necessary strategies and skills. Ideally children should have book experiences in comfortable settings ~ not just in the pressure cooker of a large class. We are exposing children to books, getting them comfortable and interested in reading, all in a cozy child-centred environment, which the Centre provides." BOOKS: There is a dedicated Guided Reading Section with many effective emergent and early reader series. We constantly add to our collection to provide volume and variety of materials. Many of the books have a simple ‘How To” section which makes it easy for willing parents and volunteers to participate. For more information follow these links: WEBSITE: http://www.trenchtownreadingcentre.com FACEBOOK Group: http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=99213236091.. Some quotes about the project: Emma Lewis: US Embassy Office of PR. Personal comment: Trench Town Forever! Just a stone's throw away from the Government Yard where Bob Marley grew up, in a sadly impoverished area, the Trench Town Reading Centre is a little beacon of love, light and hope. More power to you and your wonderful kids and the grown ups too!
Allison Hickling: Rotary Club Trafalgar,Communication Specialist UNICEF Jamaica I speak on behalf of the Club and all our special guest readers when I say that we had the most wonderful time on Saturday. It was a blessing and an honour. To our great delight, a few of the kids showed off their drama skills in performances done true Jamaican style. The event was topped off by individual reading sessions with club members, for which the kids enthusiastically rushed to pick out their books and readers. Personally, this was the best part of the event for me --for both the warm interaction and the absolute eagerness on the part of the kids to devour the books. You are doing this community such an amazing service, by helping to encourage avid readers for life! Christopher Whyms-Stone: Architect: Cornerstone Design Architects & Planners, Managing Director; Kingston, Jamaica This place through is mere existence and also its programs has given the YOUTH an entirely different perspective of life...every time i see these photos of these kids I remember them a few years ago and see how they have grown and continue to bloom.....this is what strengthens my faith that Jamaica's best years are ahead of us...." Vivien Goldman: Author: Book of Exodus (Making Bob Marley & Wailers album 2006) “The existence of the TRC, a rare haven amid Trench Town’s battered streets, is crucial in helping the community “Take just one step more.” The Centre’s extraordinary work, bringing the light of literacy where reading ability is not always the norm; giving a safe, clean, beautiful space to the area’s youth …. long may the TRC’s light shine bright If you, your school, students or organization would like to support TrenchTown Reading Centre, please contact Roslyn Ellison: reading_centre@hotmail.com

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Little Women 4 Little Women in Afghanistan

Here is an exciting project to support: http://www.littlewomenforlittlewomen.com/ Little Women 4 Little Women in Afghanistan is a non profit organization that was founded in the fall of 2006 in Kelowna B.C. It started with the belief by one girl that she could make a difference in the life of a girl just like her in Afghanistan. Little Women is working hard to support the education of women and girls in Afghanistan. They do this by raising funds and raising awareness. To date LW4LW has raised close to $375,000 for education projects in Afghanistan. They work with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. 100% of all donations go to education projects in Afghanistan. LW4LW strongly believe that by raising awareness, they can advocate for universal human rights, especially the right to education and give Women and Girls in Afghanistan the chance to live in a country of equality and freedom.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Global Bookmark Exchange: Bring the world into your classroom

If you are a teacher interested in connecting students to the world through books, this activity is for you! Connect social studies, language arts and art by making bookmarks and participating in my global bookmark exchange. It is simple: have students make handmade bookmarks. These can be decorated with glitter or stickers, by drawing etc. Bookmarks can be laminated or made on construction paper. Each bookmark should have one sentence about the student's favorite book, in English and in any other language he/she may speak. Email me and tell me how many bookmarks you will have, where you live and which grade/age level your students are. I will then match you and send you a contact elsewhere in the world. You will mail your bookmarks and receive bookmarks back for your students. You can also send letters, flags, and other things to your penpals. And of course you and your students can check out the books the other children are reading! During the past few years some 20,000 children in close to 40 countries have participated in the Global Bookmark Exchange!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Books for the Dominican Republic

Thanks to ORCA Books I was able to bring Canadian novels in Spanish to a school in the Dominican Republic. They had virtually no books so the kids were excited to get these new novels. If you plan any travels, contact a publisher to see if they will donate some appropriate books. You can also take along pencils, pencil sharpeners, sewing kits, paper and other supplies. It's amazing how we can all do little things to make a big difference. Happy travels!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Books for ZAMBIA


A Professor Helps Raise a Library in His Native Town in Zambia

By Ryan Brown

Well after midnight one night in 2006, Mwizenge S. Tembo was walking through his family's village of Nkhanga in eastern Zambia when he noticed the darkness was broken by a single light coming from his nephew's hut.

Curious, Mr. Tembo, who is a professor of sociology at Virginia's Bridgewater College, asked the boy the next morning what had kept him up so late. "Reading," he said. But when Mr. Tembo asked what book, his nephew shook his head. He didn't have any books, he explained. His reading material was the stack of notes he had taken that day in school.

"I thought, Oh man, that is really bad," Mr. Tembo later recalled. The encounter with his nephew reminded him of his childhood in the same village in the 1950s and 60s, when the closest he came to books were the beat-up textbooks he and his classmates read aloud in school because there weren't enough of them to go around. He didn't have a wide supply of reading material until he went to college, first at the University of Zambia and then at Michigan State University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1987. And although much had changed for his hometown in Zambia in the decades since, the lack of reading material remained constant. The closest library to Nkhanga was more than 120 miles away.

In a country where the adult literacy rate was over 70 percent, Mr. Tembo thought that was unacceptable. So he gathered the village's leaders together and began to devise a plan to build a library. And when he returned to Bridgewater, Va. (population 5,200), he marshaled another set of chiefs—professors, church leaders, and students—to raise the money and collect the books the library would need.

From there, the plan lurched forward in fits and starts. In 2007, a local middle school held a book drive that netted 800 books. But shipping them to Zambia drained the project's coffers, and when the books continued to flood in—including a collection of more than 100 works of English literature donated by a retiring Bridgewater College professor—they were shunted into storage in Mr. Tembo's basement. The teetering stacks stayed there until last October, when another Zambian expat heard about the project and volunteered to pay to send the books to Zambia—from her house in New Jersey. A group of Bridgewater residents scrambled to set up a caravan of cars to drive the 3,000 books there.

And then there was the matter of the rain. Each year in Zambia between November and April daily downpours made construction nearly impossible. So the building rose piecemeal—a foundation in 2007, walls in 2008, a roof in 2009.

But Mr. Tembo, who teaches courses on African culture at Bridgewater, says that despite the slow-going construction, he never had trouble drumming up interest in the project among his colleagues and students. "When he talked about this library, his passion for it lit mine," says Larry C. Taylor, an assistant professor of music at Bridgewater who organized a fund-raising concert at his church.

The library has never had a single large donor, Mr. Tembo says. Instead he strung together donations of $20 or $50 until he had enough to wire a few hundred dollars to Zambia for the next phase of construction.

In the village itself, the project met with more skepticism. One woman asked Mr. Tembo if she would have to pay to read the library's books. When he said no—that you borrow and read the books and then return them—she initially didn't believe him. "It seems so obvious to us," Mr. Tembo says. "But it's not if you live somewhere where libraries are just a rumor."

Five years and $45,000 after it began, Mr. Tembo's library is approaching completion. The 3,100-square-foot brick building has taken its place at the center of the village, with nearly 4,000 books shipped from the United States waiting in battered boxes to fill its shelves—when it gets shelves. And then there is the matter of a staff. That library 120 miles away has to send a librarian to do the cataloging and teach local volunteers how to take care of the facility. But by making it a volunteer operation, Mr. Tembo says he hopes to stress that the library belongs to the people who visit it.

"The idea was not to build a monument, but something the community will use," he says.

Check out the following link for one librarian's response to her encounter with Zambian library resource shortages, now with two working libraries and seven more in the planning stages - each autonomously run. http://www.lubuto.org

Along with a growing collection of digitized Zambian stories!