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Breaking ground (literally) - and you can help!

Hello all,

This post is a special one. Please read it! It will make you think twice about spending $5 on that pint of beer, $9.99 on that shirt on sale at the Gap, or anything else that isn't vitally necessary.

After another week of teaching, we are breaking ground at the primary school - literally. Early this past week, I sat down and did my expenses. I calculated my costs of living ($120 room and board each month - a generous sum for my family), transportation ($6 per week), and costs of photocopies, school supplies, and other necessities (about $50 a month). After doing so, I reviewed my available funds and calculated that, if I cut out all unnecessary expenses ( i.e. drink treated water instead of bottled, and eat only the food at the house), I have nearly $700 to invest in the school.

With this in mind, we had the first truckload of sand delivered to the primary school on Thursday. On the 6th of February, masons are arriving at the school to begin the installation of cement floors in all the classrooms. In addition, they will be building a cement staircase. As of now, the conditions at l'Ecole Primaire de Doumbouo are dismal. There are seven classrooms, all with dirt floors. Students are constantly plagued by chiggers, insects in the dirt that lay eggs in human skin, causing nasty swollen sores. The classrooms are either constantly full of dust, or otherwise muddy (if the floor have been recently wetted to tame the dust). The walls of the buildings are rudimentary mud-brick. As much as I would like to hang posters and maps in the classrooms, mud-brick is a hard medium to attach anything to. The main row of classrooms is at the bottom of a steep hill of gravel and dust. Students scramble to and from their classrooms, slipping and sliding. Next week I am bringing my camera to school and will upload pictures of the buildings and classes so you can have a better idea of what I'm describing.

So, progress is about to be made. For approximately $400, all the floors will be cemented to prevent chiggers and provide a clean workplace. The staircase will be a tremendous improvement. With the $300 I have left, I plan to buy books for the school. Here are some figures. In the youngest class, SIL (the equivalent of kindergarten), there are 72 students and only 20 have English books. CP (1st grade): 66 students, 20 books. CE1A (2nd grade A): 38 students; 8 books. CE1B (2nd grade B): 42 students, 10 books. CE2 (3rd grade): 61 students, 20 books. CM1 (4th grade): 51 students, 13 books. CM2 (5th grade): 32 students, 15 books.

You get the idea. And these are only English books. This does not even touch on all their other subjects. Students are required to buy their own textbooks. The school CANNOT provide them. As it is, the teachers (who are wonderful, devoted, energetic, and unbelievably perservering) get paid minute salaries. The English textbooks cost anywere from 1300 CFA to 2500 CFA ($2.60 to $5) each. I would like to buy enough books so that there can be at least one book on each row of desks so the students can share. And again, I'm only talking English books. That task would easily consume my remaining $300.

And this is where you come in. I am not in the habit of asking for money from family and friends, but I realize in this case what an enormous amount of good can be done with what is, for us in the US and other more developed parts of the world, a seemingly small amount of money. $2.60 can buy a textbook that will stay with the school for years and help countless kids. $10 buys a bag of cement, with which the walls, in addition to the floors could be sealed, allowing us to put up posters and maps and drawings. For about $60, pipes could be routed to the school so the kids can have water to drink and with which to wash their hands. $20 buys enough malaria medication to treat dozens of kids - a huge motivator for parents to send their kids to school. I am also in the process of talking to the director of the high school across the street from the primary school. The high school is fed by 12 primary schools. Only those students who excell in CM2 are permitted to attend. I am working to build a library with him through the African Library Project (thanks Kathleen!), but we first need to set up the room and build shelves. Hopefully, if things work out, the African Library Project will supply the books.

In the last week, I have received an outpouring of emails asking about ways to help. Yes, we need school supplies. To the school students back home in the U.S. eager to help, YES! Your contributions are welcome (and I will be in touch with your teachers about this). But in many cases, I can buy what we need here - but only if I have funding.

So, here it is, a plea for help. In less than two weeks, changes are already being made and ground is already being broken. Think what can happen in four and a half months!

A check for $5 will buy at least one school book. A check for $100 could cement the walls, bring water, or buy science books. The smallest contribution can make the biggest difference. Please consider my request. Also, consider forwarding this request to your family and friends who might be interested in helping as well.

Checks can be made out to Lindsay Clarke and mailed to: Lindsay Clarke, c/o Corky Clarke, 218 Lansdowne Avenue, Wayne, PA 19087 USA. My dad, Corky, can deposit the checks in my account at home and I can draw from the account using at ATM here.

Just think, for the cost of a beer or a trip to the movies or that shirt from the Gap, kids here could be seeing unthinkable changes. The teachers at the school literally danced when I told them about the floors. Let's bring more good news.

I hope this request has not offended anyone. If it has, I am deeply sorry.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions for want to know how you can send materials instead of money, please just ask. Also, if you want your money spent on something in particular (books or maps or construction, for example), let me know that, too. If you do decide to send money, let me know via email in addition to sending a check!! (For other news on me, keep reading.)


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