Our family has been involved with Back2Back for many years. In 2000, our oldest child went on a school mission trip with Back2Back. We were all able to go as a family in 2008. As I served at the various children’s homes, I noticed that the children had little or no access to books. Trained as a reading specialist and elementary teacher, I realize the importance of reading to kids and access to books in a child’s literacy development. As a mom, I witnessed the joy of reading to my kids and the excitement in their eyes as we explored the world through books. And as an avid reader myself, I cherish the time I can spend with a good book.
I was saddened that the children living in the homes could not have these same experiences. In the months that followed after I returned from my trip, I kept remembering all the children who I had met in Mexico that did not have access to books. God was continuing to nudge my heart to do something. Not knowing how exactly to help, I devoted some time to prayer.
In the months that followed, God sparked a solution that began with my kids. Ben, who was in eighth grade, gathered 600 used books to donate to Back2Back. My daughter, Erica, who was a senior in high school, organized a “literacy packet” drive with the Spanish classes at her school. She collected 110 personalized packets consisting of a children’s book, writing materials, and a personal letter to each child. My Bible study also sent packets down. The next summer, Erica was able to deliver the packets when she served again on a school trip.
As I shared the literacy issue with my parents, they felt compelled to get involved. My father is a long time member and leader in his local Rotary International group, the Rotary Club of West Seneca, New York. Each year, they adopt an international project to support with a donation of $2,000. I was able to visit the group and give a presentation on the literacy needs of the children that Back2Back serves. Not only did Rotary International agree to donate the full $2,000, but they also offered a matching district grant and a private donation, bringing the total to $6,000.
At the same time, Martha, the director of Del Norte Children’s Home, an orphanage that Back2Back serves, was building a library for the children there, but she needed money for books. We had a match! The money donated by West Seneca Rotary was enough to provide books for the library, allowing Martha to fulfill her dream of a library for the children at Del Norte.
This past March, Erica and I traveled to Mexico to paint a mural on the library wall. It was exciting to see the room where the library was going to be. Erica felt honored to contribute to the project by creating a mural. Now, with the library open, I am so thankful that the children have a beautiful place to escape with a good book!
Just this past week, I learned that the Rotary Club of West Seneca, NY has approved an additional $2,000 donation towards a library at another children’s home where Back2Back serves, Douglas Children’s Home. Once again, a private donation was given with the possibility of a matching Rotary district grant. The project continues! More books allowing more children to discover the joy of reading!
While I was in Mexico, I saw the lack of literacy opportunities for the children, but I felt that there was not much that I could do. The need seemed too great. After I returned home, God continued to put the children on my mind and heart, and I knew that I had to listen. Back2Back staff member, Beth Guckenberger, gave me some great advice, which I clung to: take one step at a time and wait for God to show you the next step. And that is exactly what I did. I began by taking the first step with getting my children involved and then God has ordered the steps that led us to a Rotary partnership. This partnership has provided the resources needed to begin to give the children in the homes an opportunity to improve their literacy and escape into a good book.