An orphanage in western Africa has received nearly 900 books collected by members of the University of Lynchburg community.
Chris Decarmen ’16, who organized a book drive for the orphanage during his senior year, recently received photos and videos of children smiling as they unpacked boxes of books and turned the pages. He shared them with the LC community to thank those who made it possible.
In 2015, Chris had a summer internship in Kumba, Cameroon. His main task was to help a town council improve leadership practices, but he also spent some time volunteering in the Clephic Orphanage. There, he read the children Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, a children’s book in which the title character suffers from chewing gum in his hair, trouble at school, a cavity, and other minor mishaps. Chris said he realized that the terrible day described by the book pales in comparison to some of the challenges the children in the orphanage faced.
After he returned to the U.S., he was thinking about the fate of children’s books here: some parents throw them out when their kids outgrow them, others stow them away until they have grandchildren years down the road. “So why not just donate those dusty books to the children in Cameroon?” Chris wondered.
He reached out to members of the University of Lynchburg community to ask for used children’s books. He specifically encouraged students to gather books while home for winter break.
He explained in a flyer promoting the drive that the people of Cameroon had made him feel welcome and forged friendships with him during his three-month stay. “I could never fully repay them. However, I believe I can start by showing that kindness works two ways,” he said.
He was amazed that 872 books came in. He shipped them to a Peace Corps volunteer who has been working at the orphanage.
He believes that the drive succeeded because of its focus on a specific group of children. “The focus of our drive helped create greater empathy and personal connection between the donor and the recipient,” he said. “I want to thank everyone that donated and helped make this a success.” Now that he has graduated, he hopes LC students will find other groups of children to help through similar efforts.