Brielle’s mother Leah helps load up books to be sent to Malawi.
By Ann Fowler
An Oak Hill eighth-grader named Brielle [last name withheld by request] found such overwhelming success in a project to earn her Silver Award as a Girl Scout Cadette, that her church is scrambling for donations so the project’s donated textbooks can be delivered to a poor African country.
According to her mom, Leah, “The Silver Award involves choosing an issue of importance to her that will positively impact her community and be sustainable.”
Brielle decided to support education in the Republic of Malawi, a poor nation in southeast Africa, by collecting used textbooks. In addition, Brielle wanted to provide comfort to the young students who have no desks, so she also collected carpet squares that the children can sit on at school.
Said Leah, “To reflect a sustainable impact on the community, Brielle has made and distributed flyers to the community about education in Malawi, and participated on the newly formed Malawi steering community at her church to help launch their efforts for Malawi.” Technically, Brielle donated the books she collected to the Western Hills Malawi Steering Committee at the Western Hills Church of Christ on Parkwood Drive in Oak Hill.
“I felt inspired to do this project because the only textbook in the classroom is the teacher’s,” said Brielle. “Classes can contain up to 200 kids, so I am glad to have the opportunity to give these kids a better learning experience.”
She added, “I always hear about these stories but didn’t think I’d be one to make such a difference like this. Sometimes it was stressful keeping it organized, but it was definitely worth it.”
Sarah Bhagwandin is the chair of the Malawi Project Steering Committee at the Western Hills Church of Christ. She said, “At the beginning of Brielle’s project, we imagined that she would collect 500 to 600 used books, and we would drive them to Indianapolis, the headquarters of the Malawi Project, over the course of the year as various members of the church went to the Midwest, so that this donation could be included in one of their other shipments.”
But that was before the Austin Independent School District (AISD) surprised everyone by donating 33,000 gently used textbooks to Brielle. A local freight company offered free storage until May 1, so church members will be packing the books into three containers for shipping – at a cost of $38,000.
The church members hope Oak Hill residents and businesses will help by donating money toward the shipping and/or participating in a barbecue/auction fundraiser on Sunday, April 22.
“We’d love to see the community come out and support our barbecue and auction,” said John Bryant, Western Hills Malawi Steering Committee member. “It should be a fun way to enjoy some great food and help get these books into the hands of the kids in Malawi.”
Those wishing to purchase barbecue are asked to RSVP to 512-892-3532 or email@example.com to be sure enough food is on hand. The church is located at 6211 Parkwood Drive. Barbecue (ribs, chicken and hot dogs along with sides) will be served starting at noon, and will continue until all food is gone. The suggested food donation ranges from $8 to $15.
A live auction that includes gift baskets will be held in addition to a silent auction. The church encourages its Oak Hill neighbors to come by, enjoy the food, bid on the auction items, and help Brielle’s textbooks get to Malawi.