Scholars help Argentine students tap the power of learning
Students welcome Tanner Wells and Kimberly Berls (back row) to the Aguada de Guerra school. Photo courtesy by Project Patagonia
Southern Argentina’s rugged Patagonian region almost left two service-minded Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholars in the dust in December. U.S. students Kimberly Berls and Tanner Wells got their fill of the stuff during a 20-hour bus ride, followed by 6 hours in a car, from Buenos Aires to Río Negro province.
“We had the windows closed the whole time, but somehow the dust still covered the inside of the car, filling our shoes to the point we had to dump [it] out of them,” Berls says.
But the dust wasn’t enough to deter her and Wells from delivering computer software, printer cartridges, a DVD player, DVDs, children’s books, and other materials to the Aguada de Guerra school as part of Project Patagonia. They also led the schoolchildren in a geography game and writing pen-pal letters to a fifth grade class in Ohio, USA, taught by Janet Pierce, the mother of fellow Rotary Scholar Emily Pierce. Later, the two delivered 10 boxes of nonperishable food, cooking and eating utensils, children’s books, and other items for the Niñas de Ayouma school.
Berls, Wells, and fellow Rotary Scholars Emily Pierce and Christopher Tepper came up with the idea for the World Community Service (WCS) project to encourage literacy and promote world understanding. With help from the Rotary clubs of Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, and Gainesville-Haymarket, Virginia, the four scholars raised US$8,401 in project funding from 45 clubs.
In March, Pierce and Tepper carried out the second phase of the project: delivering five computers, educational software, and library books to Aguada de Guerra. They also taught the students how to use their new resources.
“Seeing the faces of the students, teachers, and parents when the computers were delivered was truly all the reward necessary,” Tepper says. “We’ve also provided globes, world maps, and made presentations about Rotary and its mission of world peace.”
Future plans include linking the school to the Internet, providing printers for its computer lab, and expanding the project to reach nine other schools.
“Within a few months, four scholars suddenly equaled 45 Rotary clubs in five Rotary districts on two continents, the Rotary International WCS office, two happy communities, and 80 rural Argentine children,” wrote Pierce and George Layne, of the Gainesville-Haymarket club, in District 7610’s January newsletter.
This article appeared in the 2007 October issue of Rotary World