June 29, 2011
By Taylor Fox
Bartlett social studies teacher Brett Weiss is expanding his classroom beyond American borders by setting up a scholarship fund for children in Dago, Kenya.
“For years I had been thinking about and wanting to go to Africa and I came up with a lot of excuses as to why I shouldn’t do it,” Weiss says. “Finally, in the summer of 2008, I said ‘you know, I’m just going to do this.’”
Since 2008, Weiss has worked with an organization called Village Volunteers, a nonprofit organization that works in rural villages in Kenya, Ghana, India, Nepal and Belize, to organize his trip to Kenya.
“I just said I wanted to go to Africa, so just put me where you think I should go, where I could do the most good.”
In the summer of 2009, Weiss traveled to Dago where he first felt the need to help the local children.
“There are just so many things that are going through your mind because you can’t even imagine that this is the same planet that you live on, because by the time you get to Dago you’ve driven past the point of nowhere, you’re way off any roads, there’s no electricity, there’s nothing, just huts.”
Weiss and his various classes have taken on many projects to help the people living in Dago such as collecting money for shoes and buying the village a new cow. Now he hopes to help the children in a more permanent way.
“For my 40th and 50th birthdays I told people not to get me a gift; just give a gift to your favorite charity,” Weiss said. “I don’t care what it is or how much you give, just do that. So I’ve been thinking for a long time of doing something like that for my 60th birthday.”
Weiss has asked family, friends and students to donate money toward the scholarship instead of giving him a birthday gift in hopes of sponsoring at least three students for the next four years.
“It’s $2,400 for four years of high school,” Weiss explained. “One of the challenges groups have when they try to do scholarships is sometimes you sponsor a kid maybe for the first year without knowing if you will have money for the second year, third year, fourth year. So one of the rules I set up for this fund is we’re only going to sponsor a kid when we know we have enough money for four years. Because you can’t sponsor a kid and then they run out of money (because) the kid won’t be able to go to school anymore.”
Weiss has raised more than $5,000, enough to sponsor two students for all four years of high school. To donate, you can go to Village Volunteers and choose Dago Dela Hera Orphanage with Brett Weiss in the memo line.
“Most of us spend our lives and we want to do things,” Weiss said. “We want to help, but most people don’t do things because they just feel overwhelmed. Stop being overwhelmed; just do one thing, help one kid, whatever it is, just do something.”
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