Students at the Smith Academy for Excellence are sending books to orphans in Comayagua, Honduras.
Teacher James McFadden started the project. McFadden visited Honduras last winter with a group of local dentists involved in the nonprofit organization Sonrisas Siempre. The group provides free dental work in that area for orphans. McFadden said he remembered walking into an orphanage and seeing a shelf that only held two small rows of books, the only reading material the orphans had. McFadden said it got him thinking about how to get the children more books.
Then came the untimely death of a friend, Michael F. Owens, who he had worked with at the nonprofit James S. McFadden Resource Center. When McFadden joined SAFE – an all-boys charter school for grades 6-9 – when it opened last fall, he thought of something that would remember his friend, help the children in Honduras, and get his students to think beyond the boundaries of their school. He started a project , Michael F. Owens – Read a Book, Build a Library.
SAFE students are able to read a book in McFadden's class and then choose a book to be donated to the children in Honduras.
The Hondurans “don't have things like we do; we really take things for granted,” said Isaiah Gibson, 13, a student in McFadden's class.
Pictures from McFadden's visit to Honduras decorate the wall by the tall bookcase in his classroom. McFadden said the pictures have drawn a lot if interest from his students.
“They ask a lot of questions about why the kids in the photographs don't have the same things they do.” McFadden said.
“It's a really cool project,” student Jacob Guntle, 14, said. Guntle said he really enjoys reading, and spends a lot of time doing it at home. His classmate, Solamon Stiles, 12, an avid reader, said he was involved in several projects at his former school, Washington Elementary, where they helped some children in Africa. So far Stiles has read 10 books in McFadden's class.
McFadden said he is planning on photographing each student who has contributed a book and placing a photo of him in the book he has selected to go to Honduras. He would like to build a relationship between the students and the orphans. Ideally he would love to connect the students in sixth grade and then when they are in eighth or ninth grade have them travel to Honduras to meet the students they have be corresponding with. Of course, that is still just something he is working toward.
Various community members donated money for books along with family and friends of Michael Owens, the Charlie Tippmann Charitable Trust Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, students at SAFE and students at Ward Education Center.
McFadden is still trying to raise $500 to pay for the shipment of the books and will be taking donation through Jan. 30.