BY JESSICA STRACHAN
A collection of slightly tattered but perfectly legible children’s literature that Taylor students are no longer reading has a new destination: southeastern Nigeria.
The gently used books were set out for families to take at Clarence Randall Elementary’s fall open house, which Taylor resident Amobi Uzochukwa was attending with his third-grade daughter and fourth-grade son, according to Librarian Caroline Patts.
Librarian Caroline Patts said the collection of books were donated from local organizations, discarded from the library, or simply the titles students were no longer interested in.
“Every year we let the kids take some home from school,” said Patts. “But these books, they were left over, it seemed like we weren’t going to find anyone to take them.”
But at the end of the event when the three boxes of books remained, seemingly unwanted, Uzochukwa, who came to Michigan 18 years ago, knew exactly where the donation could go after his summer trip to Nigeria led him to the sad state of his own elementary school where he grew up.
“The the level of dilapidation I met (in) the school was shocking,” said Uzochukwa about Community Primary School NKWE, a rural schoolhouse in the state of Enugu, located approximately 200 miles from Nigeria’s capital. A recent summer trip to Nigerial led Uzochukwa, who moved to Michigan 18 years ago, to the sad state of his own former elementary school.
“There were no sign of textbooks anywhere in the school, there were cracks on the classroom walls, potholes in the classroom floors, and no chairs for pupils to seat while receiving lessons,” he added.
Uzochukwa said it was a sight hard to believe for an outsider, but familiar to him having grown up in the region. Since then, he has donated seating for the students and currently collecting other ways to support the school and saving up money to cover the cost of shipping the material internationally.
Three boxes of used books may seem small, but according to Uzochukwa, it’s will be a huge gift to the people they reach and his attempt to “alleviate the suffering of the little students growing up in this area of Nigeria.”
Patts said the project is something new and off the cuff, but an endeavor that has gotten many people excited to learn about.
“I think it’s outstanding that he has such a care in his heart to get those books to kids who really need them and a lot of us in the building here are really excited about it,” Patts said, reiterating a mission that transcends country borders: “We have to get books in the hands of kids. Whether they are old or new books, and it makes my heart warm to know this is happening.”