Circle Donates Items to Students in Kenya

Circle Donates Items to Students in Kenya
Published By: Jeff Vorva, Daily Southtown

Bremen High School junior Xyomara Esparza said she really liked the school’s Circle Book Club project of collecting and sending books and school supplies to a school in Kenya and can’t wait to see the students’ reactions via video.

“We help people from all over the world, but we never see the reaction from those people,” she said, “This time, we will be able to see their reactions and it makes me happy that I actually know that I made a difference by sending these supplies instead of having to guess that we did.”

Next year, this project could hit home for Esparza.

Esparza is hoping the club will do a similar project to help a to be able to help a school in Estancia De Animas, Mexico. She has an uncle who teaches there.

“I wouldn’t say it’s poor,” Esparza said. “But you could tell that school supplies are needed.”

While the wheels are being set in motion for next year, book club sponsor and special education teacher Andrea Ignelzi can look back at another successful initiative for the club.

She said she received so many books and supplies to be sent to the Mwiki Primary School in Kenya that it would have cost too much to send all of them. So, the school sent roughly 200 books, 200 notebooks, 50 folders 100 Bremen T-shirts courtesy of business teacher Todd Strein along with thousands of loose-leaf paper sheets, pens and pencils to the school. The excess donations were driven to Addison to the SCARCE organization, which distributes those materials to schools in need in the Chicago area.

The Kenya connection started years ago when Ignelzi’s sister, Geri Smith, meet pastor Samuel Mburu on a trip there and one thing led to another and the book club donated materials to him when he ran a woman’s school.

Years went by and Mburu joined up with the Mwiki Primary School, which has close to 4,000 students and no library.

A sad event brought Bremen and Kenya back together again.

Jerry Smith, the father of Geri Smith and Andrea Ignelzi, died on Jan. 4 and Mburu texted his condolences to Ignelzi.

“It was out of blue,” she said. “We were looking for someone to help and that text reminded me that he was out there. He’s a great guy and it pushed his name in the forefront of my brain.”

At first, Ignelzi was a little worried. Students not in school because of the pandemic, and she figured it would be hard to acquire donations.

But the word got out and between April 12-23, the book club got its fill and then some.

gnelzi, who also teaches special education at the Midlothian school, said that the books are valuable for Kenyan students who want to learn English.

“The books that we send may be difficult for them, but there is also secondary school with students who can use them. These books are not going to go to waste. Pastor Mburu says it helps with their English and we send them books ranging from beginning readers up through young adults.”

When the club notified Mburu of the donations heading to his school, he responded by saying, “Wow, this is great. It is a real act of mercy and love. My pupils will be very happy. God bless you and the entire Circle Book Club.”

Despite the pandemic, it’s been a busy time of helping for the book club.

In the early stages of the pandemic, the club gave out 500 pieces of sidewalk chalk for students to spread good cheer. In the fall, the 12-member group provided free earbuds for teachers and students as they studied remotely via phone of computer.

Ignelzi started the book club 18 years ago with the idea to get students to read more than just what was required. Soon, the students were doing projects to help others each semester.

“These students are really excited about these projects and are so excited that these supplies are going all across the world,” she said. “It’s going to be really exciting when we see them in their Bremen shirts holding up the books.

“I’ve got a great group of kids this year and none of them are seniors, so I hope we have them all back next year.”
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