YORK, Maine — At Coastal Ridge Elementary School, Eric Carter’s fourth grade class hosted a run Thursday, April 8, to raise money and ship more than 2,000 donated books to Malawi, in Africa.
Through community sponsorships, about 257 students raised $4,700, more than quadrupling the original amount needed to ship the books, said Leah Drennan, who is in her first year as a community action specialist at CRES.
A total of 305 sponsors donated to the cause based on the students’ goal to run 2 miles each. In every class, several students ran extra laps to make sure the whole group hit its goal, Drennan said.
Students sought sponsorships from their family, friends and neighbors. In total, students and a few teachers ran 366 laps around the school grounds and 455 miles, Drennan said.
Five groups ran throughout the day, with about 56 students per group.
This school year, in lieu of of participating in music classes due to COVID-19 restrictions, all students at CRES have taken on Community Action projects. In January, Carter’s class hoped to collect 1,000 books to make a donation to the African Library Project. The community donated more than 2,000 books, which meant they needed to raise $1,000 for shipping.
“We do not yet know precisely where the extra money will go,” Drennan said, “We are in contact with our African Library Project coordinator about possibilities … regardless of the path, all funds will go to improving literacy in Malawi.”
The extra $3,700 may go toward supporting the construction of a library or school building, a direct monetary donation to the African Library Project, or shipping for any upcoming book drives.
The African Library Project is an organization that mobilizes book drives throughout the United States and contributes to establishing small libraries in rural African communities.
“Our method makes a concrete and personal difference for children and communities on both continents,” the organization’s website states.
Volunteers organize book drives and raise funds to ship the books overseas, according to the website. Once those books are gathered and mailed, the African Library Project and its partners within Africa deliver them to communities throughout each partner’s country.
According to Drennan, the African Library Project works with three other organizations to create libraries in Malawi. Among these organizations, one helps the community construct the physical library, another trains librarians to ensure the safety and security of the library, and the third arranges for the safe transportation of donated books.
The books will leave Maine for New Orleans on April 15, where they will be placed on a freighter bound for southeast Africa on May 15, Drennan said.
Carter is proud of his class, he said, and believes it’s important for students to learn how to give back.
“They came up with this on their own. This is the project they chose to do,” Carter said. “With Leah’s direction, they were able to execute it.”
Fourth-grader Emily Hultman completed her six laps, settled on the pavement and chugged some water after running on a balmy spring day. Hultman said she’s excited to give the kids in Malawi books to help further their education.
“It was really all planned by the kids,” Drennan said. “They wrote the letter to spread the word and ask for donations. They planned how the run would look.”
By creating the opportunity for students to give back, Drennan believes the kids have “grown so much,” she said.
Whether the community action project class will be an ongoing part of the school’s curriculum is unknown, Drennan said, but she certainly hopes that regardless, students will continue to engage with community service.