The Bookmark Project, and Your Own Dreams.

The Bookmark Project in the making!

Hello wonderful readers,

I just want to give you an update on the Bookmark Project. For those who don’t know, I had started a little project with my neighborhood children in Nigeria which involved them decorating bookmarks, me laminating them in Nigeria, and then selling them upon my arrival in the U.S. The project will benefit the children and help their families pay for school fees, uniforms, textbooks, school supplies, and art supplies.

To read more about the Bookmark Project, please see my blog post titled, “Breaking Up with Doing My Best.”

Thanks to sixteen wonderful donors plus all the United Airlines flight attendants and Silk Road Montessori families who contributed to this cause, we were able to raise $374 for the children. Here in the States, $374 would only buy one week of education for one girl at St. Mary’s Academy (my alma mater). It would buy basic school supplies and a couple new pairs of shoes for two kids for one year at a public school.

But in Nigeria, and with the awesome exchange rate (well, awesome in one direction), $374 becomes N58,568. And THAT goes a long way. After this money is divvied up among the 17 children who participated, you’re looking at N3,445 per child. Do you even KNOW how far that will go?

This is enough for each child to get one year of public school fees paid for (yes, public schools cost money, which is why some children can’t go), plus enough for basic school supplies and even enough leftover to nearly pay for a brand new school uniform. Did I mention that that’s for seventeen children? Of course, not all the families will use it exactly like this. Some children attend private boarding schools (but don’t go thinking they’re anything like ours), some children will probably have more need for textbooks and supplies, others for art supplies. It’s really up to each family to decide.

I wired the money to my lovely and trusted neighbor, Mama Aina, via Western Union. I made it very clear to her that the money was for the children’s educational and creative benefit only, and she – as a Yoruba teacher at a secondary school – was fully on board with that. I called her today and told her how to collect the money, so hopefully there will be none of those hitches and glitches that all too often come with the Nigerian territory. She and the other families are beyond appreciative, and she said once the money is distributed they will get together to write a letter to me to pass on to all of you as well. I will somehow attach or scan or link up that letter on my blog when it arrives.

Stuff like this makes me happy. Even the frustrations of trying to accurately dictate the ten-digit tracking number to Mama Aina over the phone (you have no idea how hard it is for an oyinbo to say “three” and “six” in Nigerian English) made me smile. This world is an incredible place. Mama kept telling me how I’ve touched their lives forever, and it was easy for me to respond to that with an honest, “Me too.”

I’m so grateful for that entire experience, and if any of you out there have that urge, that bug, to get out of your comfort zone and reach out to the world in whatever way your heart moves you, I strongly encourage it. Despite the hardships and challenges I faced abroad on both internal and external levels, I wouldn’t take it back for anything. So check out VSO. Check out Peace Corps (though you won’t be getting sent to Kazakhstan anytime soon, so I’m blessed to have gotten the chance to go there when I did…). Check out travel destinations. Check out places in your local area you’ve always wanted to see. Do things you’ve always wanted to do. Reward yourself with experience, no matter how small it seems. It’s not small. Trust me.

This blog has been and will continue to be a metamorphosizing work in progress. No longer in Nigeria, there will be far fewer stories to tell about snakes, strikes, and schoolchildren. I’d like to be able to tell you how I see this blog evolving, but evolution is smarter than I am, so I’ll just stay out of the way. Much love, and until next time!

The Ainas

My okada driver and his family

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