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Each year, middle School students from Charles River School choose from a selection of books for their summer reading assignment. One of the selections this year was the true story, "I Will Always Write Back" by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda. The book is about pen pals Caitlin, an American eighth-grader, and Martin, a student who lives in a disadvantaged village in Zimbabwe. He is bright, motivated and determined, but his family cannot always pay the fees required for him to remain in school. As Caitlin begins to understand the hardships of Martin’s life, she starts including her babysitting money in her letters to him. She shares his plight with her family, who then finance Martin’s education and his family’s wellbeing. Caitlin’s family eventually fulfills Martin’s dream of attending a university in the United States.
During one group’s discussion of Martin and Caitlin’s story, a student shared that Martin Ganda now has a not-for-profit organization called Seeds of Africa. Part of the mission of this organization is to build the Knowledge Centre in Martin’s hometown of Mutare, Zimbabwe. Upon further research, students discovered that the organization’s fundraising includes selling bricks, for one U.S. dollar each, until enough money is raised to construct this resource center that would include interactive classrooms, computer access, a library, and a cafe.
Charles River School students were intrigued and ready to help. Six students presented Caitlin and Martin’s story to the entire middle school community and introduced Martin Ganda’s goal of providing access to education for underserved children in his home country. The group challenged their classmates to act as Caitlin did by rethinking how they spend their own hard-earned money. For two weeks following their presentation, these students monitored a donation box to raise money for Seeds of Africa’s “Brick by Brick” campaign, the fundraiser that would pay for and maintain the Knowledge Centre in Mutare, Zimbabwe. As a reminder to their peers to consider forgoing their morning coffee, treats, or allowances, the group gave daily updates on the amount of money earned. The final total was $141.