The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

August 22, 2013

Never too poor to learn

OTTUMWA — There are children around the world who have nothing until we share, said volunteers gathering "on sale" school supplies.

"Some kids and parents in Ottumwa are looking beyond their own needs and considering the difference a pencil or pen would make in the lives of needy children overseas," David Houfek, a spokesman for the international "Samaritan's Purse" organization, wrote in an email to the Courier.

He said while doing their own back-to-school shopping, Ottumwa families are adding a few extra items that will eventually be shipped to some of the world's neediest kids.

Roger Russ, a member of Northgate Alliance Church in Ottumwa, said he and his wife help organize the project locally.

"Right now," said Russ on Thursday, "the big retailers have all their back-to-school supplies on sale. I just picked up a bunch [of notebooks] for 17 cents."

Americans may not realize just how how much one of those notebooks can mean to a child or how poor some of the world's children are, he said. He has seen a stark contrast between what students here need compared to what students in other nations need to go to school.

When telling local families about some of the items they may want to purchase, he listed "don't forget erasers. Erasers are very important as the students usually have to erase the previous days lessons and reuse the paper."

Former third-world students now living in America have told him they themselves did that as children.

"It just blows your mind," Russ said. "We had a fella from Eastern Europe, and that's one of the things he said. They don't have enough paper; they don't have an endless supply like our kids. Also, pencils; when their pencil got down to a stub, they worried about where their next pencil is coming from."

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