Monday, March 10, 2014 1:45 pm | Updated: 7:19 pm, Mon Mar 10, 2014.
By the Midland Daily News
A former Midland High School exchange student from Zimbabwe, Tsungi Shumba, is on a mission to provide the children of her country with books, and Midland has stepped up to help.
Shumba attended Midland High School in 2003 as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program. Growing up, she was fortunate to receive a good education in Zimbabwe. But thousands of Zimbabweans travel great distances to attend schools with few books and without tables, chairs, paper or writing utensils. Some children can’t attend school because their guardians struggle to raise the required fees, which can be as low as $5 a term.
“Access to an education is one of the only opportunities for young Zimbabweans today to attain a better quality of life for themselves and for generations to come,” Shumba said. “We believe that instilling a love for reading and learning from a young age will help develop the skills and innovative thinking needed to cultivate a brighter future, not only for them, but for Zimbabwe as a whole.”
With the Lions Club of Zimbabwe, the Rotaract Club of Harare and other volunteers, Shumba developed the Zimbabwe K-12 Book Project. She aims to provide children in her home country with books of all kinds and for various reading levels, along with other school supplies. She turned to Midland for assistance with this effort and with the help of her former Midland host parents, Nina and Mike Paquette. The community has responded with used books — approximately 374 boxes or about 7 tons of them — and the means to box, store and ship them.
The cost and logistics of getting so many books to Zimbabwe was the major obstacle, until Stevens Worldwide Van Lines offered to help ship the books. This offer was key, and actually made the project possible.
“We have two-to-four shipments to Zimbabwe each year, sometimes with medical supplies, and the containers aren’t always full,” said Edward Melton, vice president of relocation services and marketing for Stevens. “We are pleased that we can help in the Midland community and be a part of this great effort for the children in Zimbabwe. We manage a worldwide company and it is great to think we can help worldwide as well. ”
Book donations came from several sources. Midland Public Schools donated books from the now-closed Central Middle School library, as well as some phased-out textbooks. The Grace A. Dow Memorial Library donated some books remaining after an October book sale. Volunteers from the Midland Lions Club and the Midland Morning Rotary Club of Midland, along with other community volunteers, helped pack the books.
“When we were asked to help with this project, it was an easy decision,” said Lions President Karl Ieuter, “because the Lions motto is ‘We Serve.’ So when the opportunity presented itself to help a Lions club in Zimbabwe, our club members got excited and pitched in packing books.”
Midland Morning Rotary had a similar reaction. Volunteer coordinator Sharon Leenhouts was in charge of recruiting book packers and said, “Rotarians traditionally undertake service projects that benefit others locally, regionally and in the world community, so this service project was a good fit. We were the people-power that helped our local community to better distribute their lightly used resources to the international community.”
With all these books waiting for multiple shipment times, storage became an issue and, again, the community came through. Stevens Worldwide Van Lines of Saginaw, SPACE, Inc. and Rassette & Associates of Midland are each storing boxes of books until a shipment time is arranged.
Shumba said she is grateful for the generosity and compassion displayed by the Midland community for the Zimbabwe K-12 Book Project.
“It is amazing how so many Midland people and groups stepped up to offer whatever they could to the success of this project,” she said. “It is inspiring to watch the Midland community and Zimbabwe service community work together toward a better tomorrow for all of us.”
Midland-based B+B Marketing Communications created the logo for the project and donated time to write communications pieces.
For more information about the program, or to donate school supplies (paper, notebooks, pens, pencils, solar calculators, rulers, etc.), contact Nina Paquette at firstname.lastname@example.org