From Boston to Port Kaituma with love By Matt Perkins
The Daily News Tribune
Guyana Chronicle
February 1, 2007

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MULTI-CULTURAL CONNECTION: students at John Ward Elementary helping students in Guyana. (Daily News Photo by Matt Perkins)

BOSTON: Fifth-grade students at John Ward Elementary recently stamped and mailed their generosity to those less fortunate living in the South American nation of Guyana.

Late (in December), the 42 fifth-graders shipped 360 books, weighing 140 pounds, to students at the Port Kaituma School in what is officially known as the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. The books were donated by the students from their homes in a drive they called "A Book and a Buck."

"Every child agreed to donate a book that he or she had already finished reading from a personal library from home," said Naomi E. Singer, literary specialist at the Ward school. "The kids were so generous. We're not talking old junky books, we're talking about all the types of books kids want to read today."

But the students couldn't have reached their goal without the helping hands of The Village Bank in Auburndale, who donated $300 to help with shipping costs.

The students, in a prior attempt to raise the money for shipping costs on their own, performed chores at their homes, receiving a dollar for each completed. But it wasn't enough to ship the books.

"The kids raised the money to send the first box or two, but they needed to raise more," Singer said. "They had raised close to $80, but we knew the shipping was going to cost at least $300."

That's where Village Bank stepped in.

A Village Bank employee had overheard Singer discussing the drive while at the Ward school, and immediately rushed the idea of a donation back to her fellow employees. Within hours the bank had approved a donation of the $300 for the shipping costs.

"Later that day I had a message in my mail box. It was immediate. They were just remarkably responsive to it, and the kids were overjoyed," Singer said.

Michelle DeSimone, community relations manager at Village Bank, says the money comes from a charitable budget from the bank that is set aside each year to aid local elementary schools. The idea of the Ward book drive had a large impact on the bank, she said.

"They brought in so many books from their personal libraries that it was just overwhelming," DeSimone said.

The idea for the drive was generated by two of the fifth graders, 10-year-old Larissa Lerner, and 11-year-old Samantha Libraty, who approached their teacher, Sara McClellan, a former educator in Guyana, and another fifth-grade teacher, Ken Waldman. McClellan has been keeping communications strong between her students there, and her current students at Ward Elementary.

"The kids were pen palling with the other students who are probably two years older than they are," Singer said. "They've established this multi-cultural connection which is wonderful."