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Kaczynski was able to bring McBrier to Tisko by applying for a grant from the Branford Education Foundation, which awarded $1,000 to cover the costs. “It’s been a town-wide effort,” the reading specialist said. “The outpouring of support has been wonderful.”
Counting the massive number of coins was a labor of love. Kaczynski said she was overwhelmed when they realized how much money had been contributed. “The parents and children have really embraced this fund-raising project,” she said. “The awareness has heightened.”
McBrier, who has written more than 40 children’s books, talked with Tisko students in large sessions and individually in their classrooms. She thanked them for their donations. “You are doing something that’s going to bring help to people all over the world,” she said.
McBrier described how she traveled to a number of small villages in Africa, where families had received goats from Heifer International. It was there she met Beatrice.
Using a power-point presentations and photographs from her 1994 trip, McBrier described how Beatrice’s village had no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. She showed the students photos of Beatrice’s house, which was made of sticks and mud. After the goats were donated to the village, the people not only had fresh milk, but they could sell the extra milk to buy needed supplies. Or, in Beatrice’s case, to buy books to make her dream of attending school a reality.
Over the years, McBrier has kept in contact with Beatrice, who is now living in New York City and working for Heifer International.
“Her life is very different than it was, because she has an education,” she told the students.
McBrier has returned to Africa several times, and has traveled to other countries to write four additional books about Heifer International projects.
“Since I first visited her many years ago, a lot has changed,” McBrier said. Beatrice’s village finally received electricity last year, and there are now water faucets along the roadways so villagers do not have to walk to the river for water. But most important, McBrier said, “Nobody in her village is hungry.”
Later in the afternoon, McBrier spent time in the first-grade classroom of teacher Christine Bonatti. The author talked about the importance of writing and asked the children to draw pictures and write about Beatrice’s home. Even at that young age, the students wrote insightful sentences about what they saw in the book and in the photos. Lily Penner (pictured) was one of them.
The first-graders also took a few minutes talk with the Eagle about the fund-raising project and the book.
“I brought money to school because I wanted to do it for charity and get a flock of chickens or a cow,” said Allie Bietz.
“I was the second person to bring money in,” said Evie Kaiser. “It’s so people can get a chicken or a cow and some goats.” She earned some of the coins from doing chores. “I like the book because it’s about goats, and I like baby animals.”
McBrier told the Eagle that children respond to the book because of the universal appeal of how Beatrice’s dreams were fulfilled. “It’s just such a simple idea that you can change somebody’s life with something as simple as a goat”
Kaczynski said bringing the author to the school helped make the book and the fundraising efforts more meaningful.
“It enlightened everybody,” Kaczynski said. “It makes us feel that what we’re doing is worthwhile.”
For more information about Heifer International, which was founded in 1944 in Little Rock, Arkansas, see their Web site at www.heifer.org.