Toledo) – Books 4 Buddies believes education is a global responsibility, last week they proved it.
Books 4 Buddies (B4B), a nonprofit literacy organization, sponsored its Books/Buddies/Blankets event last Wednesday for the residents of Birmingham Terrace on the city’s east side. The community center became a global hub as artifacts from Africa, international students from 7 countries, and a storyteller from The Democratic Republic of the Congo transformed the space.
B4B President and Co-Founder, Laneta Goings, received homemade, kid-sized blankets from Bud Hite, Executive Director of the Correctional Treatment Facility. The felt blankets of assorted colors, with coordinating wraparound ties, were made by residents of the treatment facility.
Book Ambassadors, the young men representing B4B, then teamed with area international students from the American Cultural Exchange Service (ACES) to distribute the blankets and books to children present. This was done after the ACES students themselves received orange B4B t-shirts and wristbands like their American counterparts. They immediately put them on, symbolic of both their global responsibility to educate and their inclusion into the B4B family.
The students participating included three B4B ambassadors, Ivan Dye, Mondo Arce and Andrew Hoppenjans, all of St. John’s Jesuit High School. The ACES students participating were Ferial Alagha (Palestine), Mariam Cisse (Mali), Muhaimina Omar (Tanzania), Alex Peralta (Spain), all of Scott High School, Loay Alarab (Lebanon) of Start High School, Joseph Kebbie (Sierre Leone) of Toledo Tech. Academy and Marina Denali (Brazil), of Clay High School.
Local ACES coordinators Tracee Ellis of Toledo and Val Virag of Oregon attended with their international students.
The students, staged in a semicircle around the children, read to them as they munched on cookies, mini-candy bars and other fun treats provided by LMHA. Young Kebbie was especially entertaining as he read “What is a Dinosaur?” His enthusiasm, his expressive eyes and a smile reminiscent of the diamonds found in his West African country, left the children craving more.
The highlight of the afternoon however, was the storytelling of “Papa” Antoine Kabwasa of The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although dressed in western attire, it was not hard to imagine “Papa” Antoine in ancestral garb, as he held an African shaker filled with beans, in his right hand. The periodic sound from the shaker blended nicely with his thick accent as he captivated his audience with two stories from his homeland. The first, “Why the Gorilla has no Tail”, (he was too preoccupied when they were handed out), was an interactive narrative complete with dance steps and prompts for audience participation. The next, “Pali Pali the Bird and the Mask”, was more traditional in style and fit well with his grandfatherly manner. Both stories taught a lesson and both mesmerized the approximately 50 people in attendance.
Books/Buddies/Blankets was primarily for the children, but no one left emptyhanded. Even their parents received buckets full of cleaning supplies and other practical household items.
Thanks to Melanie L. Johnson, Family Service Coordination Specialist at LMHA, Captain T.O. Walker, Lucas County Sheriff’s Department and Dr. Christine Smallman, Blade in Education Director, for all their hard work in making this an awesome event.
Even in Toledo, education is our global responsibility.