Succeeding Through Failure

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I sent off our last shipment of books this week to our partner schools in Lesotho and South Africa. It’s been an incredible year of fundraising, gathering donations and shipments. We raised a total of $2088.50. Sent 23 boxes of books and 1545 books altogether.  Wow! Taking that final photo yesterday made me wonder what will get to South Africa first. The boxes or my suitcase???

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Yes, I’m going to South Africa! Woo-hoo!

We have been involved with our Books to Africa program for three years. During this time, I have had the chance to get to know the teachers we work with quite well despite the fact that we live thousands of miles apart.  I am immeasurably grateful to the Microsoft Expert Educator program, which connected me with our partner teachers. If not for that program, I know I never would have met these teachers.

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It’s been my wish for a couple years to visit the schools where we send books. I applied twice for a Fund For Teachers grant to enable me to go to South Africa to study children’s literature and extend our partnership. Twice I was turned down. The second time it really hurt. I had put hours and hours of effort into my application. I revised it with advice from members of last year’s committee. I submitted a draft this year and got valuable feedback on what would strengthen my application. I put everything I had into the application and it didn’t work.

When I told one of my classes I didn’t know what I would do if I wasn’t accepted, one of my students said, “Why don’t you go anyway?”  I had all sorts of excuses for why I couldn’t, and I stuck stubbornly to the belief that I would get the “You are a Fund for Teachers 2015 Fellow” letter that day.  When I  got “we regret to inform you” letter, I was crushed. Immediately I thought I was a failure. I had tried my best and I still failed. How could that be? I had a very big pitty party for myself all afternoon. Yet, the words, “Why don’t you go anyway” kept ringing in my head. 

I also thought about how we teachers  are role models for our students. If we can’t accept failure, learn from it and move forward, how can we ask our students to do the same? So, after finding some amazingly priced airline tickets, and the “I’ll be disappointed if you don’t go” message from my husband, I took that failure and turned it into a success story.

In exactly 9 weeks I will be boarding a plane and flying to South Africa to visit three of the schools and teachers that we work with on our project! I am so excited.
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First, I will fly into Johannesburg (purple circle) and spent a couple days visiting some historical sights and recovering from 26 hours of traveling. From there I will fly to Polokwane (formerly called Pietersburg). I will spend 4 days visiting Pula Madibogo Primary School. Phuti Ragophala, the principal of this public school is trying very hard integrate technology into the classroom and  make changes for her students. I will have the chance to teach some lessons and work with some of the area teachers about how to get students inspired to read.

From there, I will fly to Durban on the Indian Ocean coast. I will spend a week in this area and visit two or three more schools. Our partner school Highbury Preparatory School is here. This is an all boys private school located in Hillcrest, South Africa.

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They partner with Ndlokolo Primary School, a semi-rural school near the Inanda Dam in the Valley of a Thousand Hills outside of Hillcrest, South Africa. They have had a ten year relationship with Ndlokolo Primary School, sharing visits between the two schools for 7th graders, an annual Easter egg collection and food collection project designed to collect food for the numerous children who attend school without having had breakfast. They also deliver the books we send to Highbury Prep.

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I may also have the opportunity to visit the all girls school in the area as well. St. Mary’s School is in Kloof, South Africa and a short distance from Hillcrest. I’ve never actually visited an all girls or all boys school, so that experience will very different than school in Washington.

Words can’t really fully describe how much I am looking forward to this trip. I’ve never been to Africa or traveled this far by myself. It’s going to be an adventure of amazing proportions. I’m crossing my fingers that I will be able see some of the Big 5 animals (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino) while I am there too.

Between now and July 15th, I’m trying to figure out what books to take and lessons to share. If you have any advice for me, please share it! There’s nothing worse about going on an adventure and then saying, “I wish I had thought of ….” or “I wish I had known….”. I will be sharing photos via social media and on this blog as much as I can or as internet cooperates. Look for the hashtag #bookstoafrica15

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The Dream Continues

Books to Africa: Year Three

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In  September 2012 when my students and I began our Books to Africa project,  their dream was to help other kids. They wanted to matter and make a difference by sharing books. They love to read and wanted to make sure that other kids had the chance to be readers just like them, no matter where they live in the world.

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That was the dream. We didn’t know exactly how things would work out, but we hoped they would. That’s where our partner schools came in. They made the magic happen in ways we couldn’t imagine.

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Who can believe that it’s been three years since we began our Books to Africa program? From the first Dream Team crew to now, each year the program has grown and evolved in different ways. We now have all the K-5 students participating, raising more money, sending more books and ultimately helping our partners in Ghana, Lesotho and South Africa! The first year our goal was to raise $1,000. The second year we totaled about $1800.  I am excited to announce that this year we have raised over…

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With this money, we will be able to send about 24 boxes of books overseas. I am so proud of the efforts of our students! I know there are some excited children waiting for the boxes to arrive too!

A couple years ago, I was listening to a book on tape and the speaker was talking about planting seeds, except she wasn’t referring to plants, but rather the seeds of ideas. She asked her audience, “What seeds did you plant today?” She explained that often we have no idea how the seeds we have planted have affected others. Her point reminded me of our literacy project and the reading seeds we have planted in different parts of the world.

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When our original team brainstormed the slogan: “Every Child Deserves a Book”  they believed that where you live shouldn’t determine what resources are available to you. Kids here are just like kids in other parts of the world. Books open up a world. They plant a garden of knowledge. They can change the educational course of a child’s life. Here is a video clip from Pula Madibogo Primary School in Sovenga, South Africa. The children wrote a song and recorded it for our students. It’s a great reminder that the actions we take do matter to other people, even when they live on the other side of the world.

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We have had numerous fundraisers since January including Friday Fun Night, Multicultural Night and Lollygrams. Many other people donated money for postage, including a very special group of my friends who don’t even have children at our school. A special shout out to my “Girls Club” friends for your belief that all children should not only have the right to read, but also have the materials they need.

 

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Fundraising for Friends

Start the new year by helping our friends in Africa!

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January is the month when the Books to Africa club kicks into fundraising high gear. This is our 3rd year of raising funds to use for postage to send boxes of books to four schools in Ghana, Lesotho, and South Africa. Last year we earned $1665.00 and our goal is to raise $1700.00 this year.  Every penny…every dollar…we raise is important and will go to help some very needy children. There are four ways you can help!

 

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At the Multicultural Night we will be selling “stamps” at our Books to Africa booth. Every person who donates will have their name written on a stamp which will be displayed on our Books to Africa bulletin board near the library. We hope you will stop by our booth, see photos of the children we are helping and buy a stamp.

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We are also hosting a Friday Fun Night on January 30th from 7-9pm at NW Aerials. The cost is $15.00 per child and the proceeds from this fundraiser will also benefit the Books to Africa program. A purple flyer went home last week with the permission form. We had 60 children participate last year. Who knew jumping in a foam block pit could help raise money for reading?

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we will sell Lollygrams again! For $1.00 students and staff will get a 2″ swirl heart shaped lollypop and a Valentine’s card to be delivered to anyone they choose (at school). It’s a sweet way to support our program and help those in need.

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If you still want to help, but can’t make it to any events, you can always donate at school in our Books to Africa box in the library. Hopefully we will have enough money to send 20 boxes of books overseas. That will be about 1700 books we will be able to send.

If you would like to read more about the Books to Africa club, you are welcome to read older posts here, here, here, and here. The tab at the top of the page, also has a link to our older pages that has lots of information and photos.

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On behalf of our Books to Africa club and our friends in Africa, we thank you for your support! It takes a village to make a difference in a child’s life.

 

Every child deserves a book!

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Books Shipped to Africa

Look what we sent in the mail!

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On Wednesday we sent our first shipment of books to our partner schools in Africa! Four boxes of books began their journey from our school to Ghana, Lesotho, and South Africa. For the past few weeks we have done fundraisers to raise enough money to pay the postage for these four books to books.

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By the end of October, we raised over $350! That’s enough to send books overseas.

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Then our students signed each book and make cards to insert into each box. In the past, our Books to Africa was only for students in grades 3-5, but this year it has expanded to all grades. Anyone can come to our meetings on Tuesdays and participate.

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We have been working with these schools for the past two years. We send books to Mrs. Adei in Akosombo, Ghana, Mr. Malakane in Lesotho, Mrs. Dunstone  and Mrs. Ragophala in South Africa. Sometimes people ask me why I this project. There are lots of reasons, and you can read the history of this project here, and here, and here, and here. However, the ultimate reason is that I believe that all children deserve books and the only way that can happen is if we help.

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I think it is also important for us to learn from each other.  I hope to visit some of our partner schools next summer. I want to make this trip a learning trip. With this blog, I hope we can open up conversation between the students at our partner schools and ourselves. What do we want to learn from each other? What are you curious about? What do you want to know? What books to do you love to read?

I hope you will leave a comment and let us know. To leave a comment, press on the conversation balloon next to the title of this post. That will open a comment box. Type what you want to say, fill in the requested information, and push post comment. I moderated all posts to make sure they are appropriate for our blog.

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What dog is in Sovenga?

Where is Dogzilla?

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I think the book Dogzilla is in Sovenga, South Africa! Yes, the hilarious book by Dav Pilkey was one of the books we sent to Mrs. Phuti Ragophala at Pula Madibogo Primary School, in the Limpopo Province.

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One of the boys read the book Dogzilla to me on Skype last night. Dav Pilkey, who wrote Dogzilla, is also the author of the Captain Underpants series. His books have been making children laugh for years!

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 Last evening at 11:15 pm, I skyped with Phuti, two of her teachers, Mohlake and Molepo, plus a classroom of students! They were so excited about the boxes of books we sent that they wanted to talk to us live on Skype. Here is are some photos from their classroom during our Skype visit.

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Four or five of the students read portions of one of their favorite books. Just being able to read aloud on Skype was a huge motivation to practice reading for these children. We are calling this project “TechnoReading!”

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In South Africa, the teachers call their students by a different term.They call the children learners. I like that word better than students. It just seems to say what we all do – we LEARN! I hope to Skype again this summer and then once school starts we will arrange for a call and a time when our students can participate. We will have to write a sing a song for our friends. They sent me a video on Facebook, but unfortunately I can’t figure out how to download it and post it on the blog. If we get the technology worked out, I will post it here.

The teachers have already asked for more books! I was sad to say that we have to wait until we raise more money for postage in the fall. Now I can’t wait for school to start again. Look at all the books on this cart that are waiting for new homes.

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Even Jett, Mrs.Daly’s dog helped out when she came up to the library to add to our book donation cart. Are you wondering where this school is located and where some of these books will go in the fall? Here is the general area where the school is located in South Africa.

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In case you were wondering also, how I could know someone 10,000 miles away from our school, I have the answer. Mrs. Ragophala and I met in March at the Microsoft Global Forum in Barcelona, Spain. We started talking about our projects, and she was very interested to hear that we send books to schools in South Africa. Before you know it, we added another school to our Books to Africa project!

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She was selected to attend for her project “Planting seeds” Changing lives! This project is about the different stages on how food is produced, technological tools that were used to enhance teaching and learning & how the lesson impacted learners and community members. She has been teaching for 27 years at Pula Madibogo Primary School, of which nine years being a principal.

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I hope you are as motivated to read as the students at Pula Madibogo Primary School. Who has already read 5 books this summer? Let me a comment and let me know!

Happy Reading! Mrs. Hembree

 

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Read Because You Can!

Can you think of a great reason to read?

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Mrs. Adei at our partner school in Akosombo, Ghana recently had a Read a Book a Week launch for the primary students. Her students created posters advertising why reading is awesome and important.

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We have been sending books to Mrs. Adei’s school in Akosombo, Ghana  as part of our books to Africa program for the past two years. We met at the Microsoft Global Forum in Prague, where we were both representing our schools and countries.

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It has been an incredibly rewarding partnership for all of the children involved. Our students have learned that their actions matter by raising money, signing books and getting them in the shipping boxes, while Mrs. Adei’s students love having new books to add to their classrooms and library at school. We can learn from each other and expand our reading horizons.
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You may have noticed that this blog post was published on the Bulldog Reader Blog and not on the Books to Africa blog. I have decided that it’s time to merge the two blogs into one in order. You can still read older stories on the Books to Africa blog about our partnership for the past two years with schools in Ghana, Lesotho, and South Africa. There is also a link to the blog at the top of this page.

I am hoping Mrs. Adei will be able to share so photos of her students reading this summer so we can include them for our Super Summer Reading posts. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we could get reading photos from every friends on continent in the world this summer? Whether you are near or far, send our photos  to:

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Happy Reading! Mrs. Hembree

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