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Liberian students reading samples of Mount Sinai’s Journeys books. Photo from Emmanuel Urey

Little more than 4,516 miles separate Mount Sinai from Bong County, Liberia. That didn’t stop the Mount Sinai School District from extending a helping hand to children across the world. 

It all began when the district was transitioning to a newer textbook program and were wondering what they could do with the trove of older textbooks. 

Liberian students reading samples of Mount Sinai’s Journeys books. Photo from Emmanuel Urey

Elizabeth Hine, Mount Sinai Elementary School assistant principal, said they didn’t want the books to go to waste. Initially they considered several options for the books, including contacting other school districts to see if they wanted the books as well as BOCES and other organizations, but they were still left with a large heap of books crowding their closets. 

Hine was then given an idea, courtesy of her daughter Kathleen Alfin. A friend that went to graduate school with her at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was looking to build a school for a number of villages in Liberia. 

“She told me that he was starting this school for these villages,” she said. “She showed pictures of the villages and she told me he could use these books.”

Emmanuel Urey, Alfin’s friend, last year came up with a plan to build a four-classroom school with a bathroom and office facilities in his village of Gormue, which is located in an isolated part of Liberia. Urey set up a GoFundMe page two years ago to help with the construction of the school. As of today, 63 people in total have raised close to $5,000 of the $10,000 goal. 

Gormue and its surrounding villages have no access to school, according to the page. The only nearby elementary school is a two-hour walk for these villagers and there are no transportation facilities in this area. 

Hine and Urey got in contact, and the Mount Sinai district agreed to donate the books to Liberian’s native school. Last month, Urey traveled to Mount Sinai Elementary to thank Hine and other school officials for the upcoming donation. At Mount Sinai, Urey was given a few sample books to bring back to his village, while they continued to get the majority of the books to Liberia.  

Alfin, who now teaches at the United States Military Academy in West Point, said Urey was her linguistic tutor during graduate school and she was trying to learn his native language. 

“I think it is great what they’ve been able to do,” she said. “This is not something that happens every day.”

Later in May, Urey visited Gormue and gave the sample books to the children and interim school master. Currently Urey, Hine and others are working on getting a Rotary Club in New York to ship the books to a Rotary Club of Monrovia in Liberia. 

This is not the first time Mount Sinai district has been able to help children overseas. In July 2018, they helped shipped 140 small laptop computers to children in both Sri Lanka and to the Maasai tribe in Kenya. 

“It means the world to another country.”

— Gordon Brosdal

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said the school board needed to approve the donation but once they had heard what Hine was planning to do, they were immediately on board to help.   

“I’m really grateful for them for letting us do this,” he said. “I want to thank Elizabeth and her daughter for bringing this to our attention.”

The superintendent said they didn’t want to discard these books even though they had found a new reading program. 

“Sometimes you want to discard things, but you don’t realize that these things could be valuable to other people that are so needy,” he said. “It means the world to another country.” 

The process of getting the rest of the books to the school in Liberia is still ongoing, according to Hine. The materials will be used by six villages and about 150 students in the new school. The construction of the school is almost complete; the building was recently roofed and they are building a well to supply the school with water. Classes are expected to start September 2019. 

To donate to the GoFundMe page for the school, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/Emmanuelurey.

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