The Joy of Reading, by Kim Wittkugel, Back2Back Mission Trip Guest

Our family has been involved with Back2Back for many years.  In 2000, our oldest child went on a school mission trip with Back2Back.  We were all able to go as a family in 2008.  As I served at the various children’s homes, I noticed that the children had little or no access to books. Trained as a reading specialist and elementary teacher, I realize the importance of reading to kids and access to books in a child’s literacy development.  As a mom, I witnessed the joy of reading to my kids and the excitement in their eyes as we explored the world through books.  And as an avid reader myself, I cherish the time I can spend with a good book.

I was saddened that the children living in the homes could not have these same experiences.  In the months that followed after I returned from my trip, I kept remembering all the children who I had met in Mexico that did not have access to books.  God was continuing to nudge my heart to do something.  Not knowing how exactly to help, I devoted some time to prayer.

In the months that followed, God sparked a solution that began with my kids.  Ben, who was in eighth grade, gathered 600 used books to donate to Back2Back.  My daughter, Erica, who was a senior in high school, organized a “literacy packet” drive with the Spanish classes at her school.  She collected 110 personalized packets consisting of a children’s book, writing materials, and a personal letter to each child.  My Bible study also sent packets down.  The next summer, Erica was able to deliver the packets when she served again on a school trip.

As I shared the literacy issue with my parents, they felt compelled to get involved.  My father is a long time member and leader in his local Rotary International group, the Rotary Club of West Seneca, New York.   Each year, they adopt an international project to support with a donation of $2,000.  I was able to visit the group and give a presentation on the literacy needs of the children that Back2Back serves.  Not only did Rotary International agree to donate the full $2,000, but they also offered a matching district grant and a private donation, bringing the total to $6,000.

At the same time, Martha, the director of Del Norte Children’s Home, an orphanage that Back2Back serves, was building a library for the children there, but she needed money for books.  We had a match!  The money donated by West Seneca Rotary was enough to provide books for the library, allowing Martha to fulfill her dream of a library for the children at Del Norte.

This past March, Erica and I traveled to Mexico to paint a mural on the library wall.  It was exciting to see the room where the library was going to be.  Erica felt honored to contribute to the project by creating a mural.  Now, with the library open, I am so thankful that the children have a beautiful place to escape with a good book!

The Del Norte Library

Kim, spending time reading in the new library

Just this past week, I learned that the Rotary Club of West Seneca, NY has approved an additional $2,000 donation towards a library at another children’s home where Back2Back serves, Douglas Children’s Home.  Once again, a private donation was given with the possibility of a matching Rotary district grant.  The project continues!  More books allowing more children to discover the joy of reading!

While I was in Mexico, I saw the lack of literacy opportunities for the children, but I felt that there was not much that I could do.  The need seemed too great.  After I returned home, God continued to put the children on my mind and heart, and I knew that I had to listen.  Back2Back staff member, Beth Guckenberger, gave me some great advice, which I clung to: take one step at a time and wait for God to show you the next step.  And that is exactly what I did. I began by taking the first step with getting my children involved and then God has ordered the steps that led us to a Rotary partnership.  This partnership has provided the resources needed to begin to give the children in the homes an opportunity to improve their literacy and escape into a good book.

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