Background of USACF’s Work
USACF’s program was born in 2003 when Sheri Saltzberg, and I formed a partnership with the Organization of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP). ORAP is headquartered in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. At the time, ORAP had 35 rural schools under its umbrella. Their schools had few resources and were very poor. After Sheri and I returned home, we found 35 American schools willing to partner with the 35 sister schools in Zimbabwe. The American schools agreed to donate their excess textbooks, library books, computers, sports equipment, school supplies, art supplies and blackboards. In addition, the students of these schools brought in their own books, toys, school supplies, sports equipment, sneakers, uniforms and toiletries. Once schools boxed and labeled their donations, USACF picked up thousands of donations and stored them in a 40-foot container. When the container became full, the cargo was transferred to a seagoing container and shipped to Africa.
After 5 years USACF expanded its program in Zimbabwe to include 100 schools and then formed new partnerships in Ghana and Tanzania. In Ghana we partnered with two organizations: the National Partnership of Children’s Trust and the SOS Children’s Villages. USACF supports 35 schools in Ghana. The Ghana partnerships are very successful. In Tanzania, the program ran for three years and served 38 schools. The program was terminated after three shipments because of a lack of oversight. For programs to be successful there must be an established NGO already on the ground to oversee the program. Hired staff is needed to keep distribution records, record school statistics and to hold headmasters accountable. This did not happen in Tanzania.
With the program ended in Tanzania, USACF now had the capacity to assist other programs in other countries. In 2010, USACF formed a partnership with two NGOs in South Africa. The first is Sharing to Learn which supports schools in northern South Africa. The second is Equal Education which operates out of Capetown. They received their first container in 2012. Both were overjoyed. In 2011, USACF partnered with the Leadership Exchange which supports schools in rural Botswana. The first container to Main, Botswana will be loaded on April 6, 2013. One of their schools which recently burned down will be completely restocked.
USACF has seen dramatic changes in its sister schools in Zimbabwe. Headmasters brag about a new culture of reading. Test scores have risen dramatically. More students are English speakers. Students have their own desks. Teachers have better working conditions. Staff morale is on the rise. USACF is very proud of all that it has been accomplished in Zimbabwe. USACF hopes to achieve the same results in all its sister schools.