Alex Breinin shares the story of his visit to Wema Children’s Centre school in Kenya where students at his former middle school and high school would go on to help start a library with over 1,200 storybooks.

From New York to Kenya

There is nothing quite like watching children immersed in reading books. I first visited Wema Children’s Centre, a school and orphanage in Western Kenya for 510 children, in 2011 with a few donated books. When the books were handed out to the children, the students immediately became transfixed in the stories, mesmerized by either a fictional tale or information about our world. As a result, a team of volunteers and I went about collecting donated books and started a library on the site.

Over the last nine years, students at my old middle and high school, Rye Country Day School, have been extremely involved in supporting Wema, often through books and other education initiatives. One year, students at both schools read Number The Stars, exchanging journal entries on their thoughts and experience reading it and learning about the Holocaust. Most years, students at Rye Country Day have held readathons, in which students have donated a dollar for every book they read over the year while also giving several of the books to Wema’s library with their reviews included. Volunteers typically carry these books over in duffel bags.

Last year, a few highly motivated students surprised us with about 1,000 books they collected for Wema! Overwhelmed with finding a solution to ship the books over to Wema in a timely manner, we reached out to friends. Luckily, one connected us to the African Library Project. Not only were we able to ship these books to Wema with the help of the ALP, two generous African Library Project donors gave Wema an extra 200 books. We are very excited to hear about the books arriving at Wema soon, vastly expanding the offerings to the students!

Interested in hosting your own book drive? Learn more about how you can start a library for students in Africa by visiting our book drive registration.