QUINCY – A classroom at Atlantic Middle School in Quincy and two residential garages are home to about 30,000 to 35,000 books waiting to be donated to a school in Zambia.
Books 4 Zambia co-founders Holly Rendle, a middle school English teacher, and her husband, Walter Cowham, have sent supplies to the African country several times over the last two decades under the name Project Zambia. With their new organization, Rendle and others are fundraising to reach their goal of $ 10,750 by Friday, July 1, to ship the thousands of books and other supplies to the Siankaba School.
“It means everything,” Rendle said. “It’s the truest act of just altruism.”
From the Peace Corps to Quincy schools
Rendle was a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia in 1996 and, upon returning to Quincy in 1998, she shared stories with her students at North Quincy High School, where she taught at the time.
“They were very curious about life in Zambia and my experience, and one kid jokingly said, ‘Ms. Rendle, you talk about Zambia so much, we should take a field trip there.’ And then another student said, ‘Yeah, why can’t we?’ “Rendle said.
And so they did. When the students were juniors in 2000, the group had raised enough money to go on a service trip to Zambia, Malawi and Botswana. The 13 students each brought two suitcases, one with personal belongings and the other packed with books, soccer uniforms and supplies for students at Nyakutwa Primary School in Chipata, Zambia.
Rendle recalled a photo she took of the East African students wearing Quincy Youth Soccer uniforms. She said the school never had the money for uniforms.
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“These kids, they felt like a team and they looked like a team for the very first time, and I will just never forget it. And I know none of the kids who were on that trip will ever forget it,” Rendle said.
Since then, donations of books and supplies have been sent to two other partner schools. The Chongololo School received a donation of about 30,000 to 35,000 books in 2007, and its new library was dubbed the “Quincy Library.”
Rendle said there is a handmade sign that reads “Thank you Quincy People, USA.”
“I shared that with my students and it just means the world to them that there’s a library named after our city,” Rendle said.
Another 35,000 books and other supplies were sent to St. Margaret’s School for Girls in Chipata in 2011.
A new donation
Rendle said the people she met during a recent visit to Zambia for a funeral inspired her. She started collecting books and supplies for this year’s donation in March.
“A lot of (the people) come from an underprivileged background, and yet they have persevered and they’ve become great educators and they deserve all the resources I can get them,” Rendle said.
The project previously was called Project Zambia in cooperation with the Quincy Public Schools. Rendle said Quincy Public Schools is not formally involved this year.
The book and item collection effort was a collaboration involving Books 4 Zambia, the Quincy Rotary Club and Atlantic Middle School, including AtlantiCares, a community service club. Quincy Youth Soccer, Quincy High School, North Quincy High School, Marshall Elementary School and local residents, including Quincy parent Kassandra Walsh, lent helping hands.
Hand-sewn, washable sanitary pads for all female students and staff at the school are provided in the shipment by Inger Kwaku and her daughter Geneva Kwaku, of Dartmouth, New Hampshire. Letters from Rendle’s students about their favorite books will also be included.
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“For me, running these book drives is sort of a thank you to the country of Zambia, the people of Zambia, for the reception they gave me and the impact they’ve had on my life,” Rendle said.
The Siankaba School, which will receive the latest donation, is in a small rural village in southern Zambia. In 2006, a makeshift preschool supported by The U Foundation opened in a mud hut and later expanded to include a nursery school with solar power and running water. The school can accommodate 60 children between the ages of 3 and 6. An expansion that will provide primary education up to grade 7 is underway.
For more information and to donate, visit books4zambia.org.
Reach Alyssa Fell at firstname.lastname@example.org.