The Joy of Reading, by Kim Wittkugel, Back2Back Mission Trip Guest

Jan 6, 2011

Back2Back Ministries

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!

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Kim, spending time reading in the new library

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.

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