By Lucy Lin’15
Bicycles, shoes, clothing, textbooks and medicine only made up a small portion of the things that Key Club members loaded onto trucks on Saturday, May 3 to be shipped to schools in Zimbabwe, Africa.
“I was ecstatic to participate in the Africa Project,” said Mayor Almas Shafiq, an active Key Club member, “because it gives students an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives in other countries.”
The Africa Project was created in 2003 under the US-Africa Children’s Fellowship organization (USACF) and has since been working to improve the living conditions of the children in Africa. The organization was founded by former Lincoln High School math teacher, Mr. Mark Grashow, who is also the creator of Midwood’s Key Club. He got his inspiration after visiting schools in Zimbabwe and witnessing the harsh living conditions there.
“I’ve always been a teacher and enjoy seeing students learning,” said Mr. Grashow. “These kids desperately want to learn but had no materials to learn from.”
After this, Mr. Grashow created the organization and started to go around schools, making speeches and collecting donated supplies. These would eventually be shipped to schools in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana and another 250 participating schools.
According to USACF, the reading scores of kids in Africa have increased from 5% passing to 60% passing in many schools and more kids are starting to qualify for universities. This shows the success of the USACF.
However, Mr. Grashow said, “The goal of this project wasn’t just to help the kids in Africa but to let children in America realize how powerful they are and how easy it is to change someone’s life. That’s why it is so purposeful.”
Not only was the project important to Mr. Grashow, but to the volunteers as well. It was a chance for them to lend a hand to the community.
“We aren’t raising money, just helping out,” said Emily Henning ’15, secretary of Key Club. “Many of them (African kids) have never held a pen or brought home a book in their life. Sometimes they have to walk miles to school without shoes. This project gives them prospects for the future. They can leave poverty instead of being trapped in it forever.”
Volunteers used their hard work to make a change. On the day of the trip to help pack the supplies, they arrived at nine in the morning and worked for about four hours. They stacked large, heavy boxes into containers, which would then be shipped. Even though it was a lot of work, most enjoyed the experience.
“My hands were in pain for three days,” said Leonit Dedushaj ’17, a member of the club, “but it was for a good cause and I was happy I was able to help a person in need.”
Liana Zinytche’16, president of the Key Club said, “We had so much fun talking with and meeting new people that we forgot about the weight of the boxes.”
Many of the volunteers also took this time as a chance to bond with peers.
“As an officer, I’m trying to have a good relationship with all my members and this was a great chance,” said Henning. “I learned all the names of the members of the project.”
They also had a chance to familiarize themselves with the new advisor, Ms. Alexander, whom they found used to be an opera singer.
At the end volunteers were rewarded with pizza and candy.
The Africa Project is not limited to Key Club members, therefore all students who want to lend a hand to the community can take part. Announcements will be made in advance to future trips.
“As mayor, I feel it’s important to get involved in clubs and organizations that emphasize volunteering and making a difference,” said Shafiq. “Key Club is an amazing opportunity for students to engage themselves and emphasize that making change is more important than relaxing on the weekends. The motivation of youth is the key to saving the world.”