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02.11.2002 General News

Rotary, students pack a human touch

By Tribune Chronicle - Ohio
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WARREN, Ohio - For the last three years, the Warren Rotary Club has given a poverty-stricken area of West Africa the funds for the bricks and mortar to build a school.

Now the Rotary is looking to add a human touch. The organization, with the help of local schools, has been collecting backpacks and school supplies for the nearly 250 students who attend the elementary and secondary schools in Akuse, Ghana.

Inside the backpacks, which will be sent after Christmas, will be pictures and handwritten letters from students at East Junior High School.

Rotary member Dennis Johnson, who began the international project in 1999, said he hopes the students will establish a pen-pal connection.

''We wanted to add that personal touch,'' Johnson said. ''We wanted to establish a link between there and here.''

Johnson explained that since Akuse was an British colony, the students there speak English.

Rotary President Patti Augustine said the Akuse students need the bags for their long walk to and from school.

''Many of these students walk miles each day to school and could use a book bag to carry their books and supplies,'' Augustine said.

On Thursday, students in Edison Junior High's National Junior Honor Society, who are organizing the school's fund-raising efforts, stacked and counted the backpacks that they have collected into piles of 15. They have about 150 bags and hope to have one for all 250 students in Akuse by the end of the collection drive.

The students also will be holding a dance Nov. 15 at the school to raise money for supplies that will be put inside the backpacks.

Students at Howland schools and in Warren G. Harding's Interact Club also have been helping collect backpacks, Johnson said. He said he expects to have more than enough backpacks for every student in Akuse. Augustine said extra dictionaries and textbooks also will be included in the shipment.

The Rotary club first started the international project by giving $11,000 to build the Akuse Junior Secondary School and to finish the Akuse Primary School, which needed three classrooms to be finished.

It also provided for desks, blackboards, maps and recreational equipment.

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