A Box of Learning

This article first appeared in the February / March issue of Rotary Magazine

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Education is one of the ways to help lift children out poverty, as it can help children gain useful knowledge, and the skills they learn can help to improve their lives and as a result those of future generations.  It is known that in excess of 20 million children worldwide cannot read and over 50 million do not have access to education. There are several box schemes within Rotary and one of these is Literacy in a Box.

Literacy in a Box is the brainchild of the Rotary Club of Roborough, Plymouth and was started 10 years ago when the club was invited by Operation Sunshine to contribute basic school materials in a container going to Zambia.  The club responded by filling two boxes, one going to Mfuwe in the eastern province of Zambia and the second box went to a school in Msoro, which is deeper in the bush and south of the first destination.

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We spoke with Ian Parker from the Rotary Club of Roborough and chair of the trustees to find out more about the organisation.  Ian told us that on receipt of the boxes, Florence Myopa, one of the school’s head teachers, wrote to them to say; “The content of the boxes was exactly as needed, enabling the pupils to develop the core skills required to become literate and numerate.  Some of the children have been rescued from street life and their lives changed because of education.  You cannot go wrong in what you are trying to do.”

A literacy box costs just over £300 to be filled and delivered.  A box contains supplies of exercise books, pens and pencils, chalks and boards and a couple of fun items like footballs.

When speaking with Ian he told us; “The Literacy in a Box Trust has to date filled and dispatched over 800 boxes since 2006.  The majority has gone to Zambia and we have also sent boxes to The Philippines, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nepal and Ghana.  The demand is always there and we would be delighted if we could increase our output to 1,000 boxes each year.  However, what we can do is limited by the funds coming in to pay for the boxes.”

Several years ago a Rotary Foundation matching grant helped the trust and working with a Rotary Club in Zambia the club was able to send 72 boxes.

Ian went on; “Across the family of Rotary we have had great support from Interact, Rotaract and Inner Wheel.  Working with local schools is always a delight since the teachers can see the benefit of our work and relate that to their pupils.”

Literacy in a Box is aiming to get a consistent stream of boxes being filled by their club and have recently launched an initiative call ‘Walk4Hope’.  This is a project to demonstrate to pupils locally the distances children in the developing countries have to walk each day to get to school.

This organisation is an example of Rotarians seeing a requirement and meeting the need.  The need is great but this club is certainly trying to do their bit and children have benefited from their generosity of effort, time and donations.

The Rotary Club of Roborough is certainly helping to reduce that figure of 50 million children across the world without education access.

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