For the second year in a row, fifth graders at Rye Country Day School partnered with Wema Children’s Centre in Bukembe village, a rural community in western Kenya. During the 2013-14 academic year, students at RCDS and Wema read Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars and responded to a wide range of questions on a shared blog that allowed each group of students to share in the experience of reading and learning together and from each other. Eager to continue and further the relationship in 2014-15, students from both schools read and sent book reviews to each other. RCDS students also took part in a read-a-thon to raise money for Wema Children’s Centre. Once the members of the fifth grade read, reviewed, and presented 500 books of their own choosing, an anonymous donor made a $500 donation to Wema on behalf of the fifth grade.
Wema Children’s Centre is a community-based organization founded in 2008 by two native Kenyans to give poor and orphaned children a home and high quality education. Today, Wema provides a loving home for 234 children, as well as a full scholarship at Highway Academy, a private school located on the same grounds that educates a total of 456 students. The children at Wema range in age from 4 to 19 and live alongside regular boarding students at Highway Academy. They are provided with three nutritious meals a day and have access to clean water, an on-site medical clinic, and most important, an education at one of the highest performing schools in all of Kenya.
As the year came to an end and momentum built toward reaching the goal of the service learning project (dubbed “Wema 500: Mission Possible” by the students), another anonymous donor matched the original donation. Not surprisingly, given their enthusiasm for the project, the 55 fifth-grade students ultimately read 540 books over the course of the year, surpassing their original goal.