A Book Drive + Friendship Around the Globe (Granby, Connecticut & Makuleke Village, South Africa)

Earlier this year, students from Granby Memorial Middle School in Granby, Connecticut partcipated in a book drive faciitated by Sharing to Learn partner organization USACF (http://thechildrensfellowship.org/).  The books that the Granby students collected, were part of a large shipment of thousands of books.  When they arrived to the village, STL worked with two local primary schools to set up libraries with the donated books.  Later, we connected the students of Granby to some of the students in the village, allowing the children the opportunity to connect with one another, learn about each other’s culture and customs, sharing the basic thread of life.

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Children at Makuleke Primary School receive books collected by children in Granby.  STL librarians distributed the books to local primary schools in the village, which allowed us to set up 2 new village libraries!

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Makuleke Village High School students, Mawisa and Percy use an iPhone to Skype with Granby Memorial Middle School students in Connecticut.  They participated in a Q & A, sharing their culture with their new friends.

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Children at Granby, happy to connect with new friends across the world in Makuleke village!

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Children at Granby Memorial Middle School Skype with Mawisa and Percy!

 


The Untimely Passing of a Hero: Benes Maluleke, STL Librarian

To our friends and supporters,

It is with great sadness that I write these words.  This morning I awoke to the news that our dear friend and colleague, Benes Maluleke, librarian extraordinaire and project coordinator for Sharing to Learn in Makuleke village, passed away from a stroke at the young age of 41.  He leaves behind his lovely wife Linneth, his son Junior, age 6, and his newborn baby boy – just three days old.

Benes was a shining light in my life, always smiling, sharing his joy, always eager and willing to help.  He was also a light in the lives of everyone that he came across.  My own life is better and richer because I have had the great fortune of having him for a friend.  To be without him is to feel loss.  The children of Makuleke village will also most certainly feel his loss.  Benes believed in opportunity, he believed in hard work, he believed in making dreams come true for himself, and most especially for others.  He and his colleague and best friend Attorney were two of the only people within the village that spent every single day working with and for the children of their community because they believe deeply in creating opportunities for them.  Benes and Attorney are Sharing to Learn; they are my own heroes, without the two of them, our humble little organization would never have grown to what it is today.  They have taught me what it means to believe in a dream, how to work towards it, and how personal sacrifice leads to a beautiful reward for many (in the beginning stages of Sharing to Learn, Benes worked with a small stipend of just $60 a month; he believed in the power of giving and sharing and helping others).

One of the greatest experiences that I shared with him was during the LIASA National Library Conference in 2011. Benes I were presenting to an entire room filled with government officials, librarians, and teachers.  We were speaking about Sharing to Learn’s work in Makuleke and how we were bringing opportunity directly to the children by creating libraries and sharing books and technology.  When Benes spoke to this large crowd, everyone listened, some people even cried afterwards as they were so touched and inspired by his commitment and accomplishments.  I was so proud of him and I was happy to see how others were also so proud to be beside him. He trembled when he came down from the stage, fueled with adrenaline and hardly believing that he had the platform to share his work in our small village with the entire country.  His eloquent and concise speech helped put Sharing to Learn on the map as he spoke of our accomplishments: “Before the introduction of STL, in the community Children and students afterschool they just walked on the street doing nothing.  So with the establishment of the library for the first time ever it brought change in the lives of many people in the community.  Children and adults have found motivation and self-confidence for the first time in their lives, they have access to books, toys, games and technology by way of laptops and iPads – for the first time in their lives – which is a part of community development.  It did bring change to the community. Now children flock to the library everyday to read books and we assist them in readings, where we have seen a big change in their lives.”  He ended his talk with this powerful plea: “We hope one day our South African government will look at rural areas and build more libraries for the benefit of our children and everyone in the community.”  And with that, the audience cheered and my heart smiled.

To get to and from that LIASA conference in East London, Benes and I needed to take an airplane and he was so excited, it was his first time to fly.  He preferred to take a bus down to meet me in Joburg, so that we could fly together, he was scared to fly alone.  He giggled as he entered the plane and took his seat next to the window.  Throughout the entirety of the flight, Benes sat with his face pressed against the oval window, staring out of it like a small child seeing something new and wondrous for the first time.  The sun was setting, coloring the sky with magical hues of pinks and yellows.  He could see the world from up above, while floating through the clouds.  He sat quietly and soaked it all in, I sat beside him and lived this precious moment through him.  This is how Benes sees the world now, from up above, somewhere in those rainbow colored clouds, where he looks down at us all, with his big smile and contagious laughter.  Benes will always be with us, in the deepest parts of our hearts.

Our little organization is in mourning right now, along with the entire village.  I mourn for myself, but mostly for everyone else that he left behind, especially his family.  He was lucky enough to meet his newborn baby just two days before passing away.  I am thinking forward with his family in mind and will be setting up a fund for his beloved children: Junior and Blessing, which will help the family with food and other essentials.  If you can spare even a few dollars, please consider sharing with his family.  You can make a donation on-line via PayPal (mention Benes in the note).  It is our hope that others will be inspired by Benes and his legacy.

Thank you all for your support.

With love, sadness and hope,

Denise

Founder & Director

Sharing to Learn

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Benes and his son, Junior, at the STL Makuleke Community Library


Internet Training in the Village

We  are blessed to have internet connectivity in the village.  Thanks to the incredibly generous donor, Mr. Derek Hewitt, Sharing to Learn’s community library & three school libraries are all connected to the web.  Community members now have free access to information – a commedable accomplishment for such a remote village.

This week, teachers from the three primary schools gathered at Joas Phahalela Primary School for an internet training course conducted by STL’s intern extraordinaire, Amanda.  For the first time, teachers were able to set up email accounts, Google information, and research.  We are so happy that we are able to help open the world up to the community and provide the valuable educational resources that they lack by way of internet and libraries.

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Skyping Live From Makuleke Village!

Sharing to Learn has been so fortunate to have lovely Amanda – a graduate of University of San Diego – intern for STL in Makuleke Village!  One of the tasks that she worked on was providing internet training for teachers at one of the village’s local primary schools.  We love this photo; Amanda and teachers giggling with delight as they tested Skype out for the first time ever!  Skype is an invaluable tool for STL as it allows us to connect classrooms across the globe with the remote, rural village in South Africa.

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Interning in the Village

An end-of-trip reflection from our wonderful intern, Amanda, on her time in Makuleke Village: “When posed with the question what do I want to do in life, I respond with: ‘THIS.’ What I am doing at this exact moment. I want to help, I want to learn from others, I want to have a meaningful impact on those I work with. I want to shine my light onto others and know someone was positively influenced by my actions.”

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Rebuilding the Collapsed Village Preschool

Several weeks ago, a preschool in Makuleke Village was destroyed in a horrible storm; the roof blew off and a wall collapsed. Since then, young children have been learning outdoors, under the shade of a tiny tarp that STL provided the preschool several years ago.  STL has raised money from supporters in New York, Connecticut and California to help rebuild the preschool. Thanks to the generosity of many, the rebuilding begins this week!


Ubuntu

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“Ubuntu: It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu


Handmade Toys and Instruments by the Children of Makuleke Village

The Makuleke people are resourceful; they create the environments around them from found materials.  Community members build homes to live in, simply with soil, grasses and water.  Children of the village create the toys and games that they wish to play with.  They visit local dumping sites and find discarded materials, such as old wires, shopping bags, soda bottle caps.  They transform these old materials, giving them new life.  What was considered waste by one person becomes a treasure to another.  The Makuleke people have something to share with the world: a lesson that we can live – in fact, we can be satisfied and happy – with little.

In this photo: a handmade kite, a mask made out of cardboard, a wire car, two dolls made of vegetable sacks, 6 soccer balls made from plastic bags, and musical instruments.  Some of these objects were on display at the Museum of Art this year.


Cultural Immersion: Connecticut Magnet School Partners with Makuleke Community

Sabin, principal of Global Experience Magnet School (GEMS)  in Bloomfield, Connecticut, greets children at the Makahlule Village Primary School, South Africa.  GEMS is partnering with Sharing to Learn to create a model global education program, rooted in cultural immersion and service-based learning.  This spring, a group of students and teachers from GEMS will be returning to the Makuleke & Makahlule villages to extend our programs.


StoryBook Adventure – Connecting Children from Portugal and South Africa Through Global Literacy

7th grade students at the Carlucci American International School of Lisbon meet their new friend in Makahlule Village, South Africa.

Sharing to Learn coordinated the global literacy project, StoryBook Adventure, pairing 5th grade students in Makahlule with 7th grade students in Lisbon.  We collected photos and gathered information on children in the village and then sent that over to Lisbon, where the children were learning how to write fiction.  The 7th graders in Portugal used the information sheets and photographs of their new friends in South Africa for the protagonists in the stories they were crafting.