Paper. Pencils. Pens.
These items are most likely taken for granted by students at Mason. But to the children living in Old Naledi, Botswana, they make a world of difference.
Under the direction of staff member Brett Miller, Mason’s Campus Crusade for Christ organization, otherwise known as Cru, chose Botswana as the country it will be aiding during this year’s Love Week beginning on Oct. 29. In its previous two years, the organization has chosen to help Haiti and South Sudan.
Mackenzie Snider, a conflict analysis and resolution major who has taken on a leadership role in this year’s Love Week, says the goal is to raise $18,000, to package two thousand backpacks with school supplies and to start a mentorship program for the children in Old Naledi.
Additionally, Cru staff will send student-made videos, supplying the children with added encouragement.
“We’re trying to change all of these kids’ lives and the country of Botswana,” said Joanna Kirby, a junior psychology major, who is co-directing the event with Erwin Camacho, a sophomore systems engineering major.
Cru’s objective is not simply to provide the children of Old Naledi with supplies that will improve their lives, but to allow the children and teachers to use the supplies to create a sustainable program.
Priya Keathly relates the mentorship program to the parable about teaching a man to fish rather than merely giving him a fish. Cru wants the mentorship program to grow.
“We are trying to start a program, and hopefully it will flourish,” said Keathly, a sophomore conflict analysis and resolution major.
Keathly is leading the fundraising team for this year’s Love Week and is coordinating restaurant nights to raise money for the event. Panda Express and Red Hot & Blue are among the possibilities.
Snider says 70 percent of students in Old Naledi do not get to go to high school.
They drop out and do not receive higher education.
Those students who are able to go to high school end up leaving the country to attend university.
“There is so little education there that they just get their education and leave,” said Snider, who is working alongside senior global affairs major Jessica Deebo.
With the mentor program, University of Botswana students will select younger children to guide and help through higher education. That way, the country is building up the number of students who can help future children in school.
Starting on Oct. 29, Cru will be selling T-shirts for $20 and handing out flyers for the Love Week event outside of the Johnson Center and Southside.
From 1-6 p.m. on Nov. 8 in the Sub II ballroom, members of Cru and the public can help put the packages of school supplies together and make short videos to send to the children in Old Naledi.
“You don’t necessarily have to give money. You just give your time,” said Snider. “We’re college students. We’re kind of poor. You may not have money, but you have your time to give.”
Anyone willing to donate time to help with Love Week goes through a short training session and then works a 30-minute shift packing backpacks.
Everyone also has the option to write a brief letter and make a short video to send to the students encouraging the mentorship program and showing Mason’s support.
“I think it really makes a difference in the community here, but also in the community there [in Old Naledi],” Kirby says.
The Cru staff has pictures of the students who will receive the backpacks.
Kirby plans to have a table set up in Dewberry Hall for people to look at when they come and help out.
With the help of Steve Baker of the Global Aid Network (GAiN) in Dallas, Texas, and Mason Cru’s in-country partners, all of the backpacks, letters and videos will be sent to Old Naledi after the event.
Each backpack will contain two pencils, two pens, a spiral notebook, a ruler, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, colorful stickers and a toothbrush for the students to keep.
Kirby hopes to recruit as many people as possible.
“It’s really cool when we get everybody else involved and excited about it,” Kirby adds.
Those involved with Love Week put in time throughout the week attending meetings and emailing.
Kirby and Snider admit a lot of time goes into the event, but the time is well spent.
“We’re lucky to be where we are and to be at Mason,” Snider says. “And especially considering the fact that this is an education program and we’re here receiving college degrees, to give these students who don’t even get to go to high school the opportunity to go, I think it’s a nice parallel.”
This year, Cru should be able to keep up with the progress of the mentor program.
Having GAiN staff in Botswana along with in-country staff, reports on the growth and success of the program will be more accessible.
The mentorship program is a sustainable program that Cru hopes will thrive.
On Nov. 8, the public, and Cru members, can help reach the two thousand backpack goal.