Wesley in Atlanta: Day 5!
Thursday, March 12, 2015 - On Thursday, we started the day off with a bit of an adventure. We drove all over Atlanta until, finally, we reached our destination: Books For Africa. We stepped into the large warehouse to find boxes and boxes full of books ready to be shipped all over Africa. The employees there were incredibly helpful and showed us all over the warehouse. We then sorted books based off age group and subject. Age groups included elementary, middle, high school, and university. Most of these groups all included sections for math, science, social studies, English, and leisure. The university group had even more sections for things like health, business, computer science, and more. Additionally, there were sections for reference, religious, and French books, as well as for school supplies. We also had to sort out and recycle anything about American History, dieting, cooking, self help, Halloween, Santa Clause, etc.
After sorting books for a while, we even had the opportunity to start packing books into boxes to send off. Julie, Leslie, and I packed boxes for elementary leisure books. We packed these as tightly as we could so that as many books could be given as possible. We packed so many boxes that we almost finished a whole palette (composed of 28 boxes).
I particularly enjoyed Books For Africa because my sorority’s national philanthropy focuses on promoting literacy. Also, I love to read, and reading has certainly been a large part of my childhood, a part of it that I highly value. It was great to see this organization working to give books (that would otherwise be in landfills) to Africa to make reading a part of the childhoods of those there as well. For, to my understanding from what the staff there told us, books can be hard to come by in parts of Africa. Additionally, it was great to see college textbooks being sent as well. Even here in the U.S., acquiring textbooks can be a challenge because they are so expensive, so it was great to see so many donated textbooks being sent.
However, at times we did find ourselves questioning the work of this organization. While it is well intentioned, we were continually reminded of the effects of imperialism, for largely all of the books sent are in English. Additionally, some of the books we sent were essentially trash. We came across many “romance”-type novels, books that we were surprised anyone would buy. With many of these types of books, we somewhat questioned whether they would really benefit those reading them, and we also questioned the work itself, which with these kind of books seemed like we were just sending off our unwanted trash. At the same time, however, we did find many great books. I saw many Harry Potter books, some Shakespeare, The Secret Life of Bees, and more. Ultimately, while some of the books seemed like poor choices to send off, there were many great books that will be sent that will hopefully help many children one day.
Later on Thursday, we traveled back to Action Ministries, this time to help with their after school program. First, we met Ms. Mabel, a retired school teacher who helps run the program. She told us about the program and what we would be doing for the afternoon. In total Action has sixteen children from Kindergarten through 5th grade that take part in this after school program. Ms. Mabel told us that each of the children in the program lives in government-subsidized housing (“the projects,” as some might call it). The goal of this program is essentially to encourage these children to become good students and go off to college.
Once the children arrived, we helped with snack time, which involved reading two books to the children while they ate their snacks. After that, we helped the students with their homework and then served them dinner before the small bus took each of them home.
In the classroom used for the afterschool care at Action, there were pictures of each child on the wall. With each photo was the name of the child as well as the university that each child said they want to attend. I found this really embodied the mission behind this afterschool program. Ms. Mabel and the others who help with it love the children so much and truly want them to grow as students and as people so that they can go to college and live well after that. Ms. Mabel and the others are truly making a difference with this program, and I believe that it’s all due to the help of God. I know I certainly couldn’t do what they are doing all alone. Just working one-on-one with a first grader on their homework was difficult enough – I couldn’t imagine trying to get all sixteen of the children to do their work with only the help of a few others. But Ms. Mabel is patient and kind. She loves the children and is determined to see them do their best academically.
As fellow servants of the Lord, I think we all found this love and determination encouraging. At least speaking for myself, selfishly, I hope that I can find a way to use my gifts from God to serve as lovingly and determinately as Ms. Mabel.