Kenyan library gets start in Fox Chapel
Fox Chapel Area junior Jessica Schwartz recently armed hundreds of needy children in Africa with tools she hopes will make them smile – and possibly help them escape poverty through education.
The 17-year-old founded FC Meets World to give local students a chance to learn about issues facing peers across the globe. The club partnered with the African Library Project and collected 1,000 books to create a library at Migori Primary School in Kenya.
Sponsored by social studies teacher Brandon Rios, FC Meets World quickly drew more than 120 student volunteers for the project.
“I'm really interested in global (issues) and I was kind of frustrated there wasn't something in place to help do what we can for someone further away than our own backyard,” Schwartz said. “People my age think about homecoming, and I do, too, but I want them to know how it feels to be part of something bigger.”
She said many students were moved by a story on a library application by Migori Principal Thomas Ogogo, who wrote that most of his 2,200 students are orphans and many female students lack a proper education.
“They see girl child in terms of dowry,” Ogogo wrote. “When a girl grows up, they want her to get married.”
Schwartz couldn't stop thinking about that.
The club set up book collection sites at the Cooper Siegel Community Library, Adat Shalom Synagogue, Hampton Library and Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church.
Jill McConnell, Cooper Siegel executive director, said she was happy to provide awareness for the project.
“The collection bin filled quickly, which indicated the community's support of her efforts,” McConnell said.
Rios said the kids did a great job mobilizing the collection effort over two months.
He is proud of the leadership shown by Schwartz, club officer Trisha Shah and other members, who spent hours after school sorting and packing the books.
“Even more impressive is that the club was tasked with trying to raise $500 to pay for shipping costs, and they succeeded,” he added.
Club members sold popcorn at school lunches, held pumpkin decorating contests in the fall and hosted bake sales.
Schwartz said she hopes the books will enhance the lives of children in Kenya and inspire a love of education.
“At the least, I hope these books make them smile as much as they have made us smile when we were younger,” she said. “This project has made me want to study international relations and education. For now, I look forward to hopefully creating another library in Africa next year.”
Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.