Mark Grashow & Sheri Saltzburg
I taught math at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York for 34 years. The school kept a huge blue dumpster behind the school. There were countless times when I looked into this dumpster and found hundreds of discarded math books, science books and library books - most in good condition. It always bothered me.
After retiring in 2003, my wife and I went to Africa for a wedding and later traveled to Zimbabwe to visit some people my son worked with. They took me to visit some of their rural schools.
The schools had nothing. No textbooks. No library books. No school supplies. No sports equipment. Nothing.
Think back to the dumpster in Brooklyn, it all made no sense. My wife Sheri Saltzburg and I returned from Africa, bought a 40-foot container and begin filling it. We never looked back.
The U.S. - Africa Children's Fellowship, which we founded, collects unwanted textbooks, library books and sports equipment from schools in the greater New York area. We do presentations in schools and ask students to support our program by donating their own books, toys, games, clothing, sneakers, sports equipment, school supplies and other needed materials.
We started our program by partnering 35 American schools with 35 Zimbabwean schools. Today we support the education of 160,000 children in 320 schools in five African countries. We have shipped 28 40-foot containers to Africa. Each container holds 1,500 boxes of donations.
In addition to school supplies, USACF repairs school furniture; works with MIT to design environmentally friendly school buildings; partnered with One World Futbol and sent 16,000 soccer balls to schools in Zimbabwe, Ghana and South Africa; and runs 8-day soccer instructional clinics for teachers with soccer coaches supplied by Super Soccer Stars.
We believe the impact of our program has been enormous on a dozen different levels. Standardized test results have soared. In one school the pass rate increased from 0% to 35%. In another from 15% to 80%. Students are able to take books home from libraries for the first time.
In September I turn 70. It is harder to tie my shoes and sleeping through the night is a faint memory. Most of my friends are climbing the same ladder. But truth be told, we remain enormously powerful. All that is needed is to gather together and find something to believe in. We may not be able to climb mountains, but we can still move a few. You don't need muscles to roll up your sleeves.