When Lexington Christian Academy Junior Kjell Pu was faced with his school’s junior year service project requirement he immediately approached Kaya Children’s Executive Director, Kristin Huang, and Founder, Chi Huang about ways he can help out. Kjell’s parents are friends with the Huangs and attend the same church. Through this relationship, Kjell had often heard of the work that Kaya Children is doing among marginalized children on the streets in Bolivia. He thought he might be able to make a difference for these children through his project. “They told me of the recently founded school program and the need for books in Spanish for the library they hoped to open,” said Kjell, “so I met with Kristin Huang and planned to host a book drive at my school.”
The school program is Kaya’s new day center and full service school housed at the Kaya Center in La Paz, Bolivia. It provides services to both children in Kaya’s residential programs and many other children who live on the streets most of the day but have a home to go to at night. Setting up a strong library is a vital part of establishing the school program and making it more effective. "In Bolivia, books are a luxury,” said Kristin Huang. “Most people don't own books and there are no libraries where people can borrow books to read for pleasure. Through the Kaya Center, we're trying to change that by giving kids access to high quality books.”
Initially Kjell hoped that he could set up an online book registry that could be available for students at his school. However, after contacting Barnes and Nobles he discovered that the company has an established book fair program available for schools. “I met with Ms. Dee Mandolese--the Community Relations Manager for the Barnes and Noble store in Burlington, MA--and she offered to host a book fair to support Kaya,” reported Kjell. “We agreed upon June 5th and 6th for the days of the fair and Dr. Chi Huang agreed to give a talk about his spiritual journey and the history of the organization.” To prepare for the event Barnes and Nobles provided Kjell with fliers and posters and set aside space in the store for the event. Kjell worked with Kristin Huang to prepare a list of books in Spanish that would be appropriate for the Kaya Center library. These books include recognized and diverse international classics such as the Narnia series, Les Misérables, Charlotte’s Web, Green Eggs and Ham, Macbeth, Peter Pan, The Giving Tree, Little Red Riding Hood, Pride and Prejudice, Huckleberry Finn, and Where the Wild Things Are.
In the end the fair garnered 160+ books totaling $1,300. In addition, Kjell raised $1,000+ in donations from people unable to attend the actual fair. “I originally planned to bring the books personally to Bolivia this summer,” said Kjell, “but we have too many--a problem, but a good one to have.” In order to transport all of the books to Bolivia, Kaya has enlisted the help of all the US volunteers traveling to La Paz this summer. Kjell said he couldn’t have arranged this project without help from the Huangs, Dee Mandolese and his parents. His friend, Steven Waterhouse, also helped him raise money and advertise for the event.
Kjell’s project has significantly improved Kaya Children’s ability to provide high quality education to children enrolled at the Kaya Center. “We're so grateful to have the support of Lexington Christian Academy and students like Kjell in this endeavor,” said Kristin Huang. “The books they have collected for us will more than double the size of our current library." Through his hard work and creativity Kjell effectively achieved the goal of his service project and made a real difference for others in need.